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Martha’s plans for the NHS

Today, Martha Lane-Fox called on the NHS to make free wifi available to all patients in health and care settings, for digital skills for doctors and increased use of online GP bookings, among other things. She said: “Free wifi is a public amenity and should be available in health and social care settings.” This afternoon the National Information Board (NIB) of which ZPB’s Alex Kafetz is an independent member, was asked to endorse the proposals.

At the Richard Dimbleby lecture earlier this year, Baroness Martha Lane-Fox announced the creation of Doteveryone, her new organisation to bring the power of the internet to all citizens in the UK regardless of geography or social status. Jeremy Hunt took up that challenge and asked Martha Lane-Fox to focus on the NHS as her first major project.

We’ve seen first hand the power that digital apps and technology can bring to improving healthcare through the evidence submitted to our panel which is exploring ways for the NHS and health tech SMEs to work better and smarter together. This includes:

  • DrDoctor, whose appointment reminder system can reduce DNA rates by 20 per cent.
  • The Learning Clinic, where accurate online recording of observations led to 18 per cent fewer deaths.
  • Umotif, whose personalised digital tools help people understand their symptoms to better manage their health.
  • And Patient Source whose on line medical records helps frontline staff reduce wasting as much as 15 per cent of their time in duplicating information.

Crucially, we also support Martha’s recommendation of ‘furthest first’, the idea that internet and digital need to reach all parts of society. NHS England often cites Ron’s story – Ron is a homeless man with mental health problems who was able to use online to channels to get help from his GP, because making appointments by phone intimidated him. This type of service needs to be available to all homeless people and not just one isolated example. We recently worked with Google and the RSA gathering evidence on how technology can improve social mobility and simple but powerful interventions like supplying free wifi can enable this to happen.

The foundations are beginning to be laid. The £1bn the NIB was awarded in the comprehensive spending review will help turbo-charge this agenda.