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Wireless technology trials at seven NHS trusts aim to demonstrate best practice

Wireless technologies aiming to help free up staff time, strengthen connectivity in emergency departments and ambulance bays and improve patient care are being trialled across seven NHS trusts.

Part of NHS England’s Wireless Trials programme, the trials aim to provide organisations with the capability they need to deliver the challenging digital ambitions set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.

Each of the seven trusts involved will benefit from a share of NHS England’s £1 million funding, as well as advice and guidance and the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded organisations, NHS England said.

Examples of best practice from successful trial sites will also be captured and shared across the wider NHS, it added.

Supporting key initiatives for staff

One of the triallists is Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which will trial an innovative approach of combining satellite and cloud-based wireless solutions to enhance connectivity across its 10 hospital sites and wider community services.

Commenting on their plans, Dan Prescott, group chief information officer at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘As one of the country’s largest NHS trusts, it’s essential that we can provide continuous patient care with minimum disruptions. With the Wireless Trial we’re aiming to create a reliable, fast and secure network access solution to address unexpected connectivity issues, even in areas of poor-connectivity.

‘This is vital in supporting key initiatives for our staff and giving our patients the best possible care.’

Real-time monitoring

Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will use the funding to install wireless trackers on medical equipment and hospital beds, which allow real-time monitoring and location tracking so that staff can easily find what they need, when they need it. The trial is expected to be completed by summer 2024.

Dylan Williams, chief information officer at Mid Cheshire Hospitals, said: ‘Piloting this cutting-edge technology is an exciting opportunity for us as we drive forwards with the creation of a new Leighton Hospital Campus in Cheshire.

‘At our Trust, the money will fund an innovative project that tracks medical equipment at our hospitals. Initially, we’ll trial it on infusion pumps. This will support efficient maintenance of the equipment and ensure clinical staff can quickly and easily locate the pumps when needed.

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‘One of our key ambitions for the New Hospital Programme is to embrace digital technology and the benefits it can bring for our patients and staff. Trialling this project now allows us to make significant progress with one of the advancements that we can expect to be commonplace at Mid Cheshire Hospitals in the future.’

The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust will also install wireless trackers on medical equipment and hospital beds in a similar trial.

Boosting efficiency with wireless technology

Another project run by Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust will introduce a new app that allows staff to take observations on tablets and smartphones by patients’ bedsides, reducing the time spent typing up patient notes and freeing up more time to spend with patients.

A trial at the Countess of Chester NHS Foundation Trust will wirelessly link modern diagnostic devices with the trust’s electronic patient records system, speeding up assessment time for patients.

Both the North West and the East of England ambulance services trusts will roll out improved wireless connections in A&E and ambulance areas, ensure faster transfer of essential patient care data from ambulances to hospitals.

Commenting on the new trials, Stephen Koch, executive director of platforms at NHS England, said: ‘I have been impressed with the innovative ideas coming from the system and we are delighted to be able to award this funding to the successful trialists to develop new or improved wireless solutions for the NHS.

‘We’ll be monitoring the outcomes of the trials and are very hopeful that a number of these will be able to be scaled more broadly across the health and social care system saving clinical time, improving patient care and saving money for the system.’

Previous wireless trials included the development of the ‘Find and Treat‘ service at University College London Hospitals. This uses high-tech tools and software to provide real-time remote diagnosis and referrals on board a mobile health unit to support vulnerable, homeless, and high-risk people in the city.

Another trial led to South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust becoming the first 5G-connected hospital in the UK.

Applications for the next series of wireless trials will open later in 2024.