Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio supports Ofcom trial and hopes to expand transmission to other Bucks hospitals
Ofcom recently announced a new approach to licensing and spectrum rules, which will result in a range of ‘restricted’ radio services being able to take to the airwaves. Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio (SMHR) played a key part in the trial which laid the groundwork for this new flexible approach which means restricted radio services – which typically cover small areas and can include hospital radio, drive-in movie soundtracks and services for events – will find it easier to access spectrum they need in order to broadcast.
SMHR was one of 12 participants in the limited coverage trial to see how the new process would work. As part of the trial the station was able to broadcast on an FM frequency which has previously been unavailable to it. This and the potential to add low power FM transmitters, could enable the station to expand its service to cover Wycombe and Amersham hospitals as well.
Hospital radio is known to support better outcomes for patients, including for their sense of wellbeing. Particularly during the height of the pandemic, when visiting was restricted, the station provided patients with a connection to the outside world and a community of listeners. Since the trial, SMHR’s listener numbers have increased by 30% as being on an FM frequency means every part of the hospital can access the frequency.
Simon Daniels, chairman and station engineer at SMHR, said: “We were keen to take part in the trial to help make sure other hospital radio stations might be able to apply for an FM frequency, which offers crystal clear stereo reception, in the future. We used to be on AM and while this gave good coverage the quality at times was not great, especially at night.
“The next step for us is, all being well, to stay on our current trial frequency once the trial is over. Then, hopefully, we are considering if we may be able to add a low power FM transmitter at the other two Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust hospitals in our area – Wycombe and Amersham. This would mean we could offer patients at all three hospitals the same service on the same frequency, supporting their wellbeing in the same positive way.”
Peter Madry, Principal Broadcast Specialist at Ofcom said: “The feedback provided by Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio, as part of the limited coverage trial, has been central to us being able to update our approach to licensing restricted services, and we are grateful for their openness, transparency and participation in the trial.”