The NHS WiFi programme is rolling out WiFi access for staff and patients across NHS providers. GP practices outside of the Early Adopter areas will start to receive their new WiFi services from April 2017 onwards, with hospitals and secondary care following in 2018. This initiative aligns with the commitment set out in the General Practice Forward View commitment (NHS England, 2016).
WiFi will allow patients, visitors, and staff to connect to the internet using their digital devices, including computers, tablets, and smart phones.
Users will see a single, consistent approach to WiFi across all NHS providers, and can be reassured that the service is secure, stable, and reliable. This also means that all users will see the same landing page when they log on to the WiFi, including national and local messages, as well as important links.
Delivering NHS WiFi
NHS WiFi is based on a set of policies and guidance defined by NHS Digital, which apply to all providers. The policy and guidance documentation has only been shared with the early adopter organisations and a concentrated group of stakeholders for controlled review. A revised and enhanced document is planned for wider release in March 2017. Local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are responsible for choosing the system which suits their needs, and implementing it across their local NHS providers.
CCGs have a choice of using procurement frameworks which are provided, or can carry out the work with an IT delivery organisation or internal team of their choice. All NHS WiFi systems must meet the NHS WiFi standards, which will be published shortly, but can be flexibly delivered to meet local needs.
CCGs can use the existing Crown Commercial Service Network Services Agreement (RM1045) and can consider partnering with other organisations in order to achieve volume discounts.
In order to complete the work GPs must allow reasonable access to their site for all the survey, installation, and commissioning work that is required. There may be some sites where NHS WiFi is not installed, as it does not provide value for money, such as GP outreach clinics hosted at shared sites like village halls. The criteria for such exceptions are in development and will be published by NHS Digital shortly.
How the programme is funded
Funding to Clinical Commissioning Groups will be provided for the roll-out of NHS WiFi to General Practices. This is based on a calculation of GP surgery size, and will be allocated to CCGs as an 'in year revenue transfer' which covers:
- the implementation costs in 2016/17 and 2017/18 only
- funding for quarterly services charges in 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 financial years (for a maximum of eight quarters from the implementation date)
The following early adopter CCGs had funding allocated in January 2016, and must have fully implemented the WiFi solution in GP practices and spent their funding allocation by 31 March 2017:
- NHS Bolton CCG
- NHS Brent CCG
- NHS Bury CCG
- NHS Central London (Westminster) CCG
- NHS Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG
- NHS Ealing CCG
- NHS Greenwich CCG
- NHS Hammersmith and Fulham CCG
- NHS Harrow CCG
- NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG
- NHS Hounslow CCG
- NHS Lewisham CCG
- NHS North Tyneside CCG
- NHS North West Surrey CCG
- NHS Richmond CCG
- NHS South Tees CCG
- NHS South Tyneside CCG
- NHS Swale CCG
- NHS West London CCG
- NHS Wolverhampton CCG
How the service will look
As part of the roll-out of NHS WiFi, each provider will have a number of wireless networks (Service Set Identifiers or SSIDs) available for different users. Every premise will have at least three wireless networks visible, and may have more depending on local preferences or requirements.
Every provider must have:
- a corporate network, used by staff with access to patient record systems. This will have protected bandwidth to ensure availability, and be secure enough to carry sensitive patient data securely. Acceptable Use Policies should already be in place within provider organisations, and they should ensure that this covers WiFi access.
- a guest network, for use by clinical staff members who might be using a corporate device that does not meet the security specification required for corporate access, or possibly their own personal device. This would also be used by business visitors to the provider who need it.
- a public network, for use by patients, visitors, and other members of the public. This will provide internet access, but isn't suitable for confidential information, and will be subject to an acceptable use, and content restrictions. There is no mandated Acceptable Use Policy, but CCGs must ensure that a locally approved one is in place as part of the roll-out in every GP practice. CCGs should also ensure that access to illegal content, or other inappropriate content (such as listed by the Internet Watch Foundation) is blocked.
In addition, the CCG can optionally choose to make a GovRoam network available, which is for government employees to use when roaming across the government estate, and can also make any further networks (SSIDs) available to meet local requirements.
Reporting on usage
As part of the implementation standards, CCGs will ensure that standard reporting is sent back to NHS Digital, as part of the chosen solution. This means that a national picture of NHS WiFi usage will be possible.
Staff will be able to access reports on usage within their own practice, hospital, or care setting.
Support and maintenance
There is no defined standard for support or maintenance, and CCGs are responsible for putting local support arrangements in to place. This should reflect local requirements, and the CCG should work with the providers to put the appropriate level of support in place.
Additional guidance is available from the NHS Digital programme team on supplier service management provision through the NHS WiFi mailbox: email@example.com.
Existing WiFi services
Where existing WiFi services are in place already, arrangements should be made to discuss the new NHS WiFi standards with the incumbent supplier. Changes should be agreed to the existing service so that they comply with the new standards over a period of time.