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Telcos agree to boost NHS staff connectivity


Mark Say Managing Editor

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A group of major telecoms companies have agreed with the Government on a package of measures to support the NHS through the coronavirus crisis.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced the agreement with BT/EE, Openreach, Sky, talktalk, Virgin Media, O2, Three, Vodafone, Cityfibre, Gigaclear, Tesco Moble, giffgaff, Hyperoptice and KCom.

It said they are going to work with NHS England, NHS Improvement and NHSX on improving connectivity throughout the care sector.

Among the promised steps are to:

  • offer identified NHS frontline staff who are existing customers mobile data access, voice calls and text at no extra cost on personal mobiles used for work;

  • prioritise broadband upgrades for NHS clinicians working from home;

  • improve connectivity in care homes where possible;

  • provide generous data allowances for vulnerable customers who depend on mobile connections, so they can have remote conversations without a fixed broadband connection.

DCMS said that NHS staff will be provided with further information on how to show telecoms providers that they are eligible for the support, although frontline staff who need more bandwidth for clinical activity should be identified by the NHS.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “These welcome commitments will mean frontline NHS staff can use personal phones for work purposes without limits or extra charges, allow GPs to carry out consultations and transfer large files from home, and help vulnerable people who depend most on the NHS for care.”

The department warned that it may take several weeks to get the arrangements in place.

Some of the operators have already provided NHS staff with special packages in response to the crisis.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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