Digital project for GP surgeries to benefit thousands

Patients using GP surgeries in East Hertfordshire and West Essex are set to benefit from better quality online care thanks to nearly £2m investment in a digital project.

A ‘full fibre’ broadband network will be created to provide ultrafast digital connectivity, capable of speeds up to 1Gbps – up to 30 times faster than superfast broadband – to all 83 GP surgery sites in Broxbourne, East Herts, Epping Forest, Harlow and Uttlesford districts, helping to put them at the forefront of digital health care.

The £1.7m investment from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme will enable GP services to potentially deliver more care health care remotely, online and through digital applications.

These are all tasks which have become vitally important during the COVID-19 pandemic that has made online, remote and digital access a necessity. The project will help to make the local health providers more resilient in the future with increased capacity for online activity.

The project, which is led by Essex + Herts Digital Innovation Zone (DIZ) and has already commenced its detailed planning and delivery stage, was developed by Epping Forest District Council and Essex County Council with support from Hertfordshire County Council and Broxbourne, East Herts, Harlow and Uttlesford district councils. It will be delivered on behalf of local health partners by Openreach in partnership with Capita Updata and Redcentric and is due to complete by March 2021.

In addition, the new broadband network built to the surgeries will also support future demand for fibre broadband from the thousands of residential and business properties located in the local areas around the surgeries. This will support local people to make greater use of digital technology to access the health and care services they need as well as the wider benefits of enhanced high-speed connectivity.

This is one of a number of projects to be awarded funding under the LFFN programme and the first project of its kind to focus the network build specifically around local GP surgeries. The project has been developed in conjunction with Essex County Council’s Superfast Essex programme, Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT), West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (WECCG) and Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Luton ICT Shared Services (HBLICT).

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said:
“The best possible connectivity means our healthcare providers can give people the best possible service. I’m pleased that we’re investing £1.7m in broadband for West Essex and East Hertfordshire and that so many local GP practices will have even greater capacity.

“This government has committed £5 billion to help roll out gigabit broadband across the UK and this step in future-proofing the network will ensure long-term benefits for the wider community.”

Peter Wightman, Managing Director at West Essex CCG, said:
“This new broadband network will futureproof the way residents across west Essex access GP services. They deserve a reliable and quick way to get in touch with their healthcare services and this will also make our GPs’ work more effective. We are really excited about the programme and would like to say thanks to everyone for making it happen.”

Michael Meredith, Director of Strategy and Estates at Princess Alexandra Hospital said:
“This is really great news. The additional investment in the health and care digital infrastructure is a major step forward, helping us to continually develop our services and care in ways that meet our patients needs best. The hospital and our health partners are working to ensure that we use digital where we can to improve services and outcomes, but we will not lose sight of the human element in the work that we do.”

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