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(The following information is taken from the official Government website, click here to read more)
"Telecommunications companies pledge to support the NHS by providing the connectivity it needs during COVID-19."
Following productive discussions with the Government, the NHS and UK's major telecoms companies have agreed to a set of new commitments to support the NHS. The NHS needs broadband and mobile services more than ever. Many healthcare services (e.g. hospital outpatient appointments) are now being provided remotely. Telecoms companies and their workers are contributing 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, O2, Openreach, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media, 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 additional charges and limitations;
- Ensure NHS clinicians working from home have, wherever possible, prioritised broadband upgrades to superfast. Other improvements they might need to perform tasks, such as consultations carried out via video conferencing and downloading/uploading 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 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 is a small proportion of mobile-only households. Operators have already agreed on generous data allowances for their vulnerable mobile customers. Patients who can only use a mobile connection for their video consultations will have sufficient data.
These commitments are in addition to the support the telecoms companies are providing to the NHS and its patients. This includes ensuring that the new emergency hospitals being built across the country have the connectivity they need and provide zero-rated access to nhs.uk on mobile connections.
NHS staff will be provided with further information by the NHS on how to identify to telecommunications providers that they are eligible for this support.
Mark Evans, CEO of O2, said, "I'm proud to see the industry work together to recognise and support the invaluable work of front line NHS staff at this critical time. Connectivity remains more important than ever, and we are committed to helping ensure that all our customers can stay in contact with friends, family and colleagues."