University College London NHS Foundation Trust has completed installation of an advanced wireless network, thought to be the largest yet implemented in the NHS.

The new Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN), implemented by Aruba Networks, has been installed across the whole of the trust to support UCLH’s move to become a ‘paperless’ hospital.

UCLH will use the WLAN to provide its 7,000 staff with secure wireless access to patient records. The system has been installed at UCLH’s eight separate hospitals, including its new flagship £422 million hospital on Euston Road, London.

In June UCLH went live with the first phase of its Carecast electronic patient record system, supplied by IDX systems. Used in conjunction with the WLAN doctors and nurses will be able to use PDAs and tablet devices to access patient information on the move anywhere within the hospital, from bedside to operating theatre.

The highly secure network is also designed to support fully converged communications and is fully ready for VoIP (voice over internet protocol) over wireless.

"This is a great illustration of the vital role that wireless technology has to play in a modern hospital environment," said Kevin Jarrold, director of information management at UCLH.

"Moving away from paper-based patient records to a wireless-accessible electronic system really frees up the way that medical staff work – not only is information more accurate, but notes can be referred to and updated in real time from anywhere in the hospital," he added.

"Staff will have the ability to access patient records anywhere in the hospital, together with email and electronic correspondence and potentially voice as well," Rob Vickers, Aruba Network’s head of UK sales told E-Health Insider.

Aruba claims its WLAN technology is set apart by the security of its networks. According to Vickers, concerns about the strength of security have deterred NHS organisations from investing in wireless networks.

"Over the past few years it’s fair to say we have not seen the large take-up of wireless that many had expected. But healthcare is a market that lends itself very well to wireless, we are seeing more and more requirement from trusts," said Vickers.

"We can show and demonstrate how you can make wireless work and make it secure," he added.

The WLAN provide to UCLH protects patient information using a centralised multi-layered security strategy. Any user or device attempting to connect to a corporate system is authenticated and checked for potential threats before being allowed onto the network. In addition, all encryption is implemented by a centralised hardware-accelerated encryption engine rather than in individual access points.

Physically the WLAN consists of 3 x Aruba 5000 mobility controllers and 350 centrally managed access points.

"Not only will the wireless network immediately increase the efficiency of information access, but it also represents the foundation of future converged communications advances," said Vickers.

In June this year Aruba Networks was selected earlier this year to implement a highly secure wireless network across the giant Microsoft HQ campus in Redmond, Seattle.