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Government Encouraging Openreach to Fibre Up UK Doctors

Monday, October 8th, 2018 (5:26 pm) - Score 1,786

The UK Government’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, has said that he believes “every single GP” should have access to a “full fibre” (e.g. FTTP) broadband connection and he wants Openreach (BT) to do the heavy lifting, albeit with the help of their Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS).

According to the report on Pulse, Hancock informed the attendants of a Conservative Party Conference fringe event last week that he had “bumped” into Openreach’s CEO (Clive Selley) and said, “I’ve got thousands of GP practices that need your full fibre connectivity.” In response the MP claims that Selley replied, “Send me their addresses.”

The aforementioned article puts a positive spin on all this, although we’d urge caution since so far as we can tell nobody has actually made a solid commitment to do anything. Instead Hancock appears to be encouraging Doctors to harness the GBVS, which is funded by a pot of £67m and aims to provide vouchers worth up to £3000 to help businesses with the costs of connecting to “full fibre” network (here).

A Spokesperson for Openreach said:

“We are keen to work with the health secretary on delivering future proof broadband infrastructure to GP surgeries across the UK.

We believe our network can do even more for patients and healthcare professionals, and we’re talking to all parts of government about how to encourage greater investment in full fibre broadband.”

On top of that it’s worth remembering that Openreach aren’t the only fibre optic builder in town and there will be other areas where different networks (e.g. those provided by Cityfibre, Virgin Media or others) may be better suited due to having connectivity at a closer proximity (every area and surgery will be different). But in some areas the costs may still be too high to roll-out such connections without extra support, even with a voucher.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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11 Responses
  1. Jim Weir says:

    Wow amazing idea, but weirdly most PCT’s (back in those days) and CCG (currently) provide most Surgery connectivity and most have been using EMIS Web software and NHS Spine connectivity for a good number of years – both of which require business grade infrastructure, which will primarily be ethernet circuits.

    I would guess the number of GP surgeries without full fibre circuits (or worst case EFM / EoFTTC) will be very very small.

    1. Joe says:

      Urban yes – rural there are more cases..

  2. FibreFred says:

    Surely this is just like connecting any business?

    They invite people to submit tenders and choose a supplier.

    1. Meadmodj says:

      Just a passing comment. Any formal approach would have to adhere to procurement rules. However Matt Hancock can simply make GP Surgeries are aware of the scheme if not already and they can approach available suppliers themselves. Sharing of scans etc has been an aspiration for sometime and speedy access to records, blood tests etc leaves more time for consultation. All good.

  3. NE555 says:

    How are OpenReach going to connect “thousands” of GP practices to fibre whilst at the same time making use of GBVS?

    FTTP-on-demand can’t handle that scale – the total nationwide capacity is currently 20 per month, increasing to 100 per month next April.

    If it’s OpenReach doing FTTP rollout off their own bat, then the activation charge is minimal (£92 at wholesale), and the GBVS can’t be used to cover rental.

    If it’s leased lines, then the NHS will be saddled with high leased line rental costs indefinitely.

    1. Joe says:

      Its a fair point although its always easier if they put together many GPs projects in a dedicated rollout team

  4. Optimist says:

    It’s just PR spin by politicians. If they really wanted to help they would be making it easier for the industry to roll out infrastructure fit for the 21st century, such as addressing issues regarding wayleaves, reforming business rates and reducing the 20% VAT on telecoms bills.

    As Ronald Reagan said, the last thing a business wants is someone saying “I’m from the government, I’m here to help you.”

  5. Rahul says:

    I’m sorry to say, but high speed fibre broadband is going to do little to improve the NHS.
    My dad is a Senior House Officer working for the NHS as a locum Doctor since 2002 having worked through over 100 hospitals in the UK in different towns and cities.

    The deterioration in recent years with the NHS is an issue independent of broadband connectivity or availability of high speed internet. Paradoxically the NHS did better in the first few years when Dial-Up was the only option.

    We had more doctors, nurses and staff in general. Hospital residential accommodation was also free at that time. I lived 6 months in Rochdale Infirmary 2003 and 3 months in Clacton-on-Sea 2012 where NHS accommodation was free as part of my doctors contract.

    After 2012 the NHS went into crisis. My dad’s free hospital accommodation stopped. Now has to pay for his Travelodge hotel. His salary also slashed from £50 per hour to around £35 per hour. The doctors and nurses were fewer as they also walked-out of their professions due to salary cuts and the need to pay for accommodation.

    This created immense pressure in hospitals. With fewer doctors and nurses all the pressure was piled on to the few doctors and nurses who had to handle more hospital patients, more paper works, etc. In a scenario like this high speed broadband will make little difference simply because there is a shortage of doctors and nurses to handle high number of patients.

    My dad stopped working as a Doctor in the last couple of years saying “enough is enough”. People like Matt Hancock and even Jeremy Hunt have no idea of the struggles inside the NHS. They may be so-called Health Ministers but they are not Doctors with no first hand experience!

  6. A_Builder says:

    Or more positively what is wrong with OR using GP surgeries and health centres as a springboard for building out the network?

    Maybe it is as simple as saying if we are doing FTTP to the area anyway we will connect you and the local school?

    Or OR like the look of a big pile of £3k vouchers? Actually I think health locations have a separate scheme and in any case most practices are really a number of sub businesses so maybe it is more like £10-15k a pop?

    Or maybe it is something more like the co investment model a lot of us talk about on here. Creating connectivity that can then be leveraged for the rest of the community.

    Anyway I won’t hold my breath but I can’t see any harm in it being done.

    BTW I don’t agree with the negative comment on the thread re leased fibre line. Once installed the monthly cost of leased 330/330 isn’t that much more than FTTP given how much prices have dropped. And in any case a surgery is going to need a business grade connection with an SLA – can you imagine the cost of cancelling a whole load of appointments because of lack of online access.

  7. Shaukat says:

    Well when I was working as an IT contractor at an NHS trust, there was a project on the go to link up all CCG sites to fibre via cityfibre network, in a semi large conurbation. In some instances this is already happening due to HSCN being implemented at the NHS

  8. joseph says:

    Oh gawd another health secretary not only clueless when it comes to the NHS but now thinks handing out vouchers to give them good broadband will fix all the actual funding and staffing problems within it.

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