Following productive discussions with the Government, NHS and the UK’s major telecoms companies have today agreed a set of new commitments to support the NHS.
The NHS needs broadband and mobile services more than ever with many healthcare services (e.g. hospital outpatient appointments) now being provided remotely. Telecoms companies and their workers are making a major contribution to keeping the nation connected during the COVID-19 emergency, ensuring that people can stay and work from home. They have now stepped up further during this national emergency to support the NHS, its staff and patients.
The UK’s major internet and mobile companies, namely BT/EE, Openreach, Sky, talktalk, Virgin Media, O2, Three, Vodafone, Cityfibre, Gigaclear, Tesco Mobile, giffgaff, Hyperoptic and KCOM, have agreed to work with NHS England and NHS Improvement, and NHSX to:
- Offer 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;
- Ensure 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;
- Improve connectivity in care homes that have slow, or no, broadband connections, wherever possible; and
- While patients having remote consultations will get the best experience on a fixed broadband connection, there are a small proportion of mobile-only households. 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.
These commitments are in addition to the support the telecoms companies are providing to the NHS and its patients, including ensuring that the new emergency hospitals being built across the country have the connectivity they need, as well as providing zero-rated access to nhs.uk on mobile connections.
NHS staff will be provided with