All NHS buildings are to be equipped with free Wi-Fi in order to boost medical treatment and the experience of patients Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.
The move follows a government-commissioned report by Martha Lane Fox, founder of digital skills charity Go ON UK.
Money will be made available from a £1bn technology fund to improve inconsistent Wi-Fi services across the country with some hospitals currently charging for access and others not providing it at all.
While the installation of the service will allow patients to remain connected to family and friends in hospital waiting rooms, officials also believe it will encourage the use of technologies that could massively cut paperwork and errors in the NHS, as well as helping alert doctors and nurses to medical problems.
"Everyone using the NHS expects it to be a world leader in digital healthcare and free Wi-Fi is an essential part of making that a reality,” said Hunt.
"It will give patients and staff the ability to access the services they need as well as freeing up clinical time and reducing overall costs."
Mobile clinical systems and tablets have already replaced paper charts in some hospitals, allowing potentially problematic changes in vital signs to be more quickly spotted and acted on, and for data to be shared around the building.
The Department of Health was unable to say what proportion of NHS facilities already provide free Wi-Fi, but was hopeful that e-prescribing could reduce medication errors by 50 per cent.
Although the government has not given a specific deadline for when the services will be available, it expects the NHS to go ‘digital and paperless’ by 2020.
It was also announced earlier this year that free Wi-Fi will be installed on all trains from 2017 to get Network Rail out of the ‘analogue age’.