Home5GVirgin Media O2 and Nokia deploy private 5G network for NHS hospital in UK

Virgin Media O2 and Nokia deploy private 5G network for NHS hospital in UK

The business arm of Virgin Media O2 (now being abbreviated as VMO2, we are informed) in the UK is working with Finnish vendor Nokia on a private 5G deployment for an NHS hospital in South London, to variously support remote patient monitoring, remote maintenance assistance, medicine storage and tracking, waste and air quality monitoring, and space mapping and management. 

The contract is to test 5G as a network foundation for sundry IoT, AR, and AI themed apps – for “mission-critical digital health use-cases”. It is part of a series of government funded innovation trials by the NHS South London and Maudsley (SLaM) Digital Lab. The network is now live across two wards at Bethlem Royal Hospital, part of the SLaM Trust, with 5G devices in the hands of clinicians, maintenance staff, pharmacy staff, and other hospital workers.

A press note called it the UK’s” first 5G-connected hospital”. A statement said: “The trials are investigating the efficiency, safety and security benefits of using smart, 5G-connected technologies in NHS hospitals – including IoT, AR, and AI… Expected benefits range from better connectivity to save clinicians time and improve patient records, to reducing medicine waste and improving air quality”. 

The SLaM NHS Foundation Trust claims the most extensive portfolio of mental health services in the UK. NHS Digital and Bruhati are also involved in the trial, alongside SLaM NHS Foundation Trust, Virgin Media O2, and Nokia. Virgin Media O2 said it wants to “map out the rollout of wireless and smart hospital connectivity across the NHS estate over the next three to five years”. Nokia is supplying its Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) platform into the deal.

Nokia and Virgin Media O2 are already working together on a private 5G (LTE) network for British Sugar. Analyst house CCS Insight called the new SLaM deal a “landmark moment for the UK telecoms and healthcare sectors”.

The network at the two wards at Bethlem Royal Hospital offer “near-real-time” connectivity for “e-observations” – “where clinicians use handheld devices to update patient records, saving valuable time and improving accuracy”. It will also support IoT monitoring devices to reduce medicine waste and track air quality, an AR tool for IT teams to access remote maintenance support, and heat-analysis mapping from CCTV footage to optimise space usage.

Stuart MacLellan, acting chief information officer at South London and Maudsley Foundation Trust, said: “[This] supports our core strategic aim to deliver outstanding mental health care… We are proud to be partnering with Virgin Media O2 Business to create the UK’s first 5G-connected hospital, which enables us to use digital innovations to improve patient outcomes. This is a very exciting step forward.”

Kester Mann, technology analyst at CCS Insight, said: “Dedicated 5G in hospitals can open the door to a range of new applications such as real-time tracking of patients’ conditions, remote support and round-the-clock monitoring of medicines and equipment. Its high throughput and low-latency characteristics can also improve the efficiency and security of existing operations, making healthcare services smarter, more accurate and more effective.”

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