Major telecoms providers pledge support to the NHS during the COVID crisis
In a joint statement between the major telecoms providers and Government, BT/EE, Openreach, Sky , TalkTalk, Virgin Media, O2 , Three, Vodafone, Cityfibre, Gigaclear, Tesco Mobile, giffgaff, Hyperoptic and KCOM, have committed to providing further support to the NHS and its staff during the pandemic. This is over and above the work they continue to do to keep the nation connected, including ensuring that the new emergency hospitals being built across the country have the connectivity they need and providing zero-rated access to nhs.uk on mobile connections.
The providers have committed to the following:
- Identified NHS frontline staff, who are existing customers, the mobile data access, voice calls and text they need, at no extra cost, on their personal mobiles used for work purposes, to enable the staff to work remotely without fear of extra charges and limitations.
- NHS clinicians working from home have, wherever possible, prioritised broadband upgrades to superfast or other improvements they might need, in order to perform tasks, such as consultations carried out via video conferencing and to download/upload large medical files. Clinicians with slow or standard broadband speeds, for example, would be eligible to be upgraded to superfast speeds where their current connections are insufficient. Some providers will upgrade customers who are NHS workers on to faster speeds without any extra charge.
- Connectivity in care homes that have slow, or no, broadband connections, will be improved wherever possible.
- While patients having remote consultations will get the best experience on a fixed broadband connection, there are a small proportion of mobile-only households. Mobile operators have already agreed generous data allowances for their vulnerable mobile customers, so that patients that can only use a mobile connection for their video consultations will have sufficient data available.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said “Our NHS heroes need to be able to carry out their vital work without worrying about technology failing them – and people using NHS services online need to be able to rely on their connections. 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. I applaud the NHS for its continued fight to save lives, and mobile and broadband companies who have stepped up yet again to help in the national effort.”
NHSX chief executive Matthew Gould said “Covid-19 has made stark the importance of technology in helping people and those who care for them stay connected. Technology has the potential to be a tremendous force for good in helping the country and its citizens through the crisis, and we are grateful to industry colleagues for offering their support to the NHS.”
Clare MacNamara, BSG CEO said “The UK’s broadband industry is conscious of the vital importance of digital connectivity to all our lives during the pandemic, and proud to play their role in underpinning this. This is acutely felt when in support of invaluable NHS front line staff, the wider health sector, and vulnerable customers”.