South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust has formed a partnership with Virgin Media O2 which will see one of its sites undergo a 5G-connected hospital trial. 

The trial is to go live at two wards within the trust, both at Bethlem Royal Hospital in South London, and will test the efficiency, safety and security of 5G connected devices for clinicians, Internet of Things (IoT), AR headsets and artificial intelligence.

By having a 5G network will transform how medical staff work, as the aim is to connect hospital activity, including smart medicine storage and e-observations.

The digital trials are being funded by NHS Digital, as part of Maudsley Digital Lab’s series of digital health and innovation trials.

Stuart MacLellan, acting chief information officer at South London and Maudsley Foundation Trust, said: “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.

“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.”

The Maudsley Smart Hospital and Maudsley Smart Pharmacy trials are expected to highlight a number of benefits, including saving clinicians’ time, improving patient records, reducing medicine waste and improving air quality.

A number of use cases will be investigated, including the eObs app which enables clinicians to use handheld devices to monitor patients’ vital signs and then update records digitally and make live observations. Virgin Media O2 Business’s private 5G network will deliver dedicated, high-speed, reliable and secure data which means clinicians won’t need to use the hospital’s WiFi and can complete their rounds more efficiently.

Through a partnership with Bruhati, the 5G trials will look at smart, connected use cases with an IoT innovation lab and platform. This will include remotely monitoring medicine fridges to ensure optimum temperatures to minimise waste; tracking air quality inside wards; and monitoring the use of desks and meeting rooms.

The benefits of an augmented reality headset will also be studied. Through Remote Expert, an expert at one site can wear a 5G connected headset, in order for an expert at a different site to help guide them in completing complex tasks via a video stream. For example, IT engineers working on the hospital’s network and servers will be able to access remote support from experts, regardless of where they may be based.

The trust will also look at creating heat maps using the AI technology Spatial Insights from Virgin Media O2 Business. It is hoped this will give them a better understanding of how people move around the hospital to deliver insight to help them better plan public areas and understand hotspots and waiting times.

Mike Smith, large enterprise & public sector director at Virgin Media O2 Business said: “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.

“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.”

A 2019 report from Tech UK and the Liverpool 5G Testbed programme believed that 5G has the power to transform health and social care.