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Poor connectivity ‘a barrier to NHS mobile working’

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Poor connectivity is the biggest issue facing the NHS as it looks to embrace mobile working practices.

A study by the Department of Health looked into the viability of letting staff use mobile devices in order to complete their tasks while on the go. It analysed 11 different sites over a 15-month period and discovered people were able to spend more time with their patients thanks to the initiative.

Travel was also reduced by one-third, which highlights the cost and environmental benefits associated with rolling out such a measure across the NHS.

However, the report flagged up the issue of connectivity, as in many cases it was not consistent enough to be relied upon at all times. This issue will remain prominent until efforts are made to improve mobile infrastructure.

The reliability and strength of networks access was found to fluctuate depending on the geographical location of the site. In an effort to deal with this problem, the NHS is advising the use of multiple network providers alongside offline working functionalities.

Speaking after the study was released, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “The NHS cannot be the last man standing as the rest of the economy embraces the technology revolution. Only with world class information systems will the NHS deliver world class care.”

He added that, in the future, paramedics could access full medical histories of a patient they are picking up in an emergency situation, which means they will have plenty of relevant information in the palm of their hands.

It is part of a drive that could see the NHS go paperless by 2018, a move that would save billions of pounds for taxpayers and allow services to be improved across the board.

By March 2015, Mr Hunt wants to see everyone given online access to their own health records held by their GP, while the adoption of paperless referrals also needs to be implemented.