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NHS WiFi in the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust: case study

Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is perceived within the local health community as being a forward-thinking and innovative trust, by providing WiFi to their service users.

About Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust

The Pennine Acute Hospitals Trust serves the communities of North Manchester, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham, along with the surrounding towns and villages. This area is collectively known as the North-East sector of Greater Manchester and has a population of around 820,000.

The trust provides a range of elective emergency, district general services, and some specialist services and operates from four main hospital sites and community clinics. The four main hospital sites are:

From 2017, the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust along with Salford Royal Foundation Trust became part of the Northern Care Alliance (NCA) NHS Group. The NCA is made up of four new Care Organisations, Bury/Rochdale, Oldham, Salford and North Manchester.


Procuring and deploying WiFi

The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust decided to procure a fully managed solution via WiFi Spark using a dedicated internet circuit and allowing the supplier to install their network equipment (Gateway and router etc.) within our segmented secure network environment (DMZ). The solution is available across all of the trust’s hospital sites, providing an overall wireless coverage of approximately 80% to 90%. However, all patient care areas have WiFi coverage. The free WiFi service has access to a 100mb internet dedicated internet circuit ensuring enough bandwidth is available for users to access a basic internet service.

Accessing the service

To ensure that patient and public WiFi is easy to access to all users, the trust has a ‘click and connect service’. The user is required to accept some terms and conditions, including an acceptable user policy that directs the user to the local trust webpage. There is a filtering capability to prevent access to known unacceptable sites and cyber security methods in place via the supplier WiFi Spark.

Supporting patients to get online

Ahead of rollout of WiFi for patients and the public, The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust worked closely with the communications team to keep everyone informed at all times of progress ensuring non-technical terminology was used.

Post rollout, there are posters and leaflets available throughout the trust buildings providing clear instructions on how to connect along with a support helpline. In addition, the information is repeated on the Trust landing page.


The WiFi service has been introduced as a fully managed service to reduce/remove the impact on care settings.

It provides full segmentation of corporate and patient access to the trust network and Internet, reducing the threat potential for both the trust and patients.

It has provided additional capacity for the trust employees to use their own devices, reducing the delays currently caused in network access by clinical and corporate users, reducing clinical and corporate risk.


Corporate Access

Improved availability and reliability of the WiFi network has resulted in clinicians and practice staff using it more.

Awareness of cybersecurity within the trust has improved, as a result of protocols implemented during the roll out.


Trust iPads and tablets have been given to the waiting areas, which has led to reductions in complaints received by the trust.

Patients are more relaxed now that WiFi is provided in waiting and in-patient areas.

The free WiFi service has also helped patients stay up to date with news and social media which also allows for a more peaceful environment around the trust sites.

Patients appreciate the new ability to maintain contact with their families while they are in hospital.

Dianne Cook, lead advanced paediatric nurse practitioner, said:

We were very keen to develop the free WiFi access following on from feedback from children and young people who have visited our department.  Their voices have been heard loud and clear as we have listened to their views and opinions following surveys undertaken in the department and in a recent Children’s Commissioner ‘takeover’ day, which involved local schoolchildren working in our department and getting involved in decision-making.”

“A strong recommendation that came from the children was for them to have free WiFi access when they attend hospital, and this view has been echoed by adults who often ask staff if they can have access.”

Eight-year-old Charlie Grimshaw from Middleton took advantage of the new service when he was treated in A&E at North Manchester for an injury to his ankle.  His mum, Nicola, said:

“I think the free WiFi in A&E is a good idea as it helps parents be able to get in touch with any other relatives they may need to contact whilst in hospital. Also, it’s great for kids in A&E as it helps pass the time and take their mind off their illness or injury.  Whilst we were waiting to be seen and go for x-rays, Charlie played on the iPad.”

Charlie said:

“I enjoyed playing games on the iPad while I was waiting.  It stopped me from getting bored and made me forget about my sprained ankle.”

Important points to remember

The most significant points we learned during the process were:

  • ensure that full understanding of estate is known from the offset, and that you are aware of any requirements from non-owned buildings to make changes to the infrastructure
  • understand the needs and aspirations of the trust's senior stakeholders from the start
  • use the communications team to keep everyone informed at all times using non-technical terminology
  • factor in the need for annual penetration tests required to ensure ongoing security
  • boast about your success

Further information

Donna Braisby, Programme Manager, NHS Digital

07876 390178

Ray Ashton, Technical Project Manager, The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust

0161 604 5678

Last edited: 5 December 2022 11:53 am