Coronavirus: NHS to roll out Microsoft Teams to hospitals

Secure, cloud-based Microsoft collaboration tool Teams will be made available across the NHS, even those hospitals not on NHSMail

To support healthcare workers during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, NHS Digital has begun rolling out Microsoft Teams to all NHSmail users.

NHS Digital said that NHS organisations that are not using the NHSmail system will also be given free access to Teams if they apply directly to Microsoft. “They will also have access to NHS Digital’s NHSmail support site to help them roll out Teams,” NHS Digital said.

Microsoft Teams provides secure instant messaging, direct audio and video calls. NHS Digital said it will be used by the NHS to support virtual meetings, and remote and mobile working between NHS colleagues, to facilitate in helping staff deliver advice during the coronavirus outbreak.

Ian Phoenix, director of technology at NHS Digital, said: “Technology is key to supporting patients who are self-isolating and makes sure they have the information they need and access to medical support and advice. For doctors and NHS staff, this means that working remotely becomes much easier and more practical.”

NHS Digital said that the Teams platform will be protected and monitored within the NHS Secure Boundary. NHS Digital said organisations not using NHSmail will be able to apply to Microsoft for free access to Teams.

Once their application has been processed, these organisations will also have access to NHS Digital’s NHSmail support site to help them implement Teams locally. The  messaging and conferencing cloud service will be made available for free for a limited time period across the NHS to counter the increased risks associated with the virus.

Beyond the collaboration enabled through Teams, there will inevitably need to be a greater amount of data sharing. When Computer Weekly spoke to NHS Digital CEO, Sarah Wilkinson earlier in March, she said that as the virus spreads, clinicians may need to work in different places and will be asked to care for people in different practices.

“They need access to records, which means a lot of protocols need to be adapted fairly radically. We are continually evolving our clinical response protocols and guidance is being adapted very quickly,” she said.

Earlier this week, the US administration urged the data science and analytics community to try to find insights from a new open dataset that has been made available via the Kaggle data community service. The availability of such data could help clinicians save lives, share best practices and ultimately accelerate the development of treatments and a vaccine.

Cindy Rose, CEO of Microsoft UK said: “Microsoft is fully committed to assisting the NHS at this incredibly challenging time. The use of Microsoft Teams will ensure the hardworking doctors, nurses and support staff across all NHS organisations have the collaboration tools they need to carry out their vital work.

“We are hugely appreciative of their ongoing efforts to tackle Covid-19 and will continue to provide support however best we can.”

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