Features | 20 Apr 2020

Coronavirus: How Vodafone UK is helping the NHS

Vodafone UK is providing connectivity for the new Nightingale hospital in London, upgrading broadband at other hospitals, and supporting NHS workers and the NHS 111 helpline.

The new temporary Nightingale Hospital, set up inside London’s Excel convention centre to treat Covid-19 patients, has received free network support and technical assistance from Vodafone UK.

Vodafone has increased the capacity of its 4G network in the area around the Nightingale Hospital to ensure that staff and patients can stay in touch with their families and loved ones. The work was completed in time for the hospital’s opening on 3 April.

Vodafone UK has long-standing expertise in boosting network capacity to deal with temporary, localised surges in demand at special events across the country. The company will be offering similar assistance to other temporary hospitals treating patients with Covid-19.

Doubling capacity

Vodafone UK has also doubled the calling capacity for the NHS 111 telephone advice service. It can now handle 2,400 calls simultaneously at any given time.

As calls from the public to NHS 111 have surged by as much as 400%, compared to the pre-pandemic peak, Vodafone has also equipped more than 1,000 workers so they can assist NHS England in staffing the free service.

This army of retired health workers and GPs was equipped with the necessary software to work from home as remote call centre workers. Although rolling out remote working services for such a large specialist workforce is a complex task, they were up and running in days.

In addition, deaf and hearing-impaired people in Northern Ireland who ring the NHS 111 helpline will now benefit from a hard-of-hearing option from social enterprise InterpreterNow. After successful roll-outs in England, Scotland and Wales, Vodafone has added the service to NHS 111 in Northern Ireland.

Upgrades everywhere

The George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, has set up specialist ‘pods’ to quarantine patients with the coronavirus. Vodafone UK’s Rapid Response team quickly equipped the pods with the necessary connections and communications services.

In the north east of England, Vodafone has upgraded a pair of hospitals with 900Mbit/s broadband, including the necessary routers capable of delivering that much bandwidth.

Elsewhere, Vodafone enabled 3,172 Wi-Fi Calling connections for the NHS South, Central and West Commissioning Support Unit in 24 hours – a remarkably short time for that many connections. A similar feat was achieved for the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, with Wi-Fi Calling enabled for their phones in two hours, as well as for the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore and the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust.

And Vodafone assisted the NHS High Weald CCG with remote working kit for their health workers who have had to self-isolate. Their spokesperson said: “The supply of equipment and rapid activation of mobile telephony and videoconferencing equipment is enabling our front line staff to remain operational while in isolation. Their ability to contact patients and continue GP services remotely has prevented our health system from collapsing.”

Vodafone has also proactively upgraded any Pay Monthly mobile customers registered on its systems as NHS workers to 30 days of unlimited data for free.

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