Virgin Media O2 connects UK's first 5G hospital

(Image credit: Pexels)

Virgin Media O2 Business has switched on the UK’s first 5G-connected hospital, building a private network that will be used to power new digital health trials.

Pilots at Bethlem Royal Hospital, part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, are investigating the efficiency, safety and security of using 5G technologies to improve care, drive efficiency and reduce waste.

Areas of interest include including Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI).

5G hospitals

“Exploring and using the latest technology supports our core strategic aim to deliver outstanding mental health care for people who use our services, their carers and families,” added Stuart MacLellan, acting CIO at South London and Maudsley Foundation Trust.

“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.”

5G-connected observations (eObs) allow clinicians to update patient records digitally and make live observations, using a private cellular network that offers greater reliability ad security than Wi-Fi. The hope is that patient rounds will take less time and collect more accurate data.

IoT tech will be used to ensure medicines are stored at optimum temperature, to track air quality in wards, and monitor occupancy at desks and in meeting rooms. Meanwhile, AR applications will help improve IT support, and AI will analyse CCTV footage to get a better idea of how to plan public areas and address waiting times. All data is anonymised, so patient privacy is protected.

“The NHS has been a cornerstone of British society for nearly 75 years, and today, we’re proud to announce the switch-on of the UK’s first 5G-connected hospital – showing how next-generation technology can help create a smarter, modern healthcare service for everyone,” said Mike Smith, Large Enterprise and Public Sector Director at Virgin Media O2 Business.

“Our aim is to map out the rollout of wireless and smart hospital connectivity across the NHS estate over the next three to five years. Trials like this are the embodiment of our mission to upgrade the UK, and a clear sign of the role we can play in helping to shape the NHS of the future.”

Other partners in the scheme include NHS Digital, Bruhati, and Nokia.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.