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Phones for Patients, a major new initiative which aims to distribute tens of thousands of securely repurposed mobile devices to UK hospitals and care homes, so that patients and residents can keep in touch with their loved ones during the COVID-19 lockdown, has been launched by cybersecurity provider Bridgeway Security Solutions.

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, all visits to hospitals and care homes have been suspended. Many patients are being admitted to hospitals without their mobile phone or charger, and the majority of care home residents rely on face-to-face visits and typically don’t own a mobile device. As a result, the lockdown has cut many patients off from their loved ones, at a time when many are most in need of love and support from those close to them.

Phones for Patients aims to bridge this communication gap by providing patients with the devices they need to stay in touch.

Phones for Patients, run by Bridgeway, will collect mobile devices, chargers and cables donated by organisations and individuals. The devices are then securely prepared for donation with all existing data and applications securely wiped, and apps such as FaceTime, Zoom and WhatsApp, installed on the devices.

To speed up the device preparation process, Bridgeway is using twelve managed USB hubs, donated by Cambridge-based Cambrionix, which make it easy to charge, connect, and synch multiple mobile devices simultaneously.

After preparation, the devices are deployed, for free, to participating NHS organisations and care homes for use by patients during their stay. The first NHS recipients of donated devices from Phones for Patients will be Camden and Islington NHS FT, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, South Tees Hospitals NHS FT, Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS FT and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS FT.

Other interested trusts and care homes are encouraged to join the initiative. Phones for Patients is also working in partnership with NHSX to establish how best to provide devices to hospitals and care homes across the UK.

Jason Holloway, Managing Director at Bridgeway and founder of the Phones for Patients initiative, said: “We recognise the devastating impact that being cut off from loved ones during such a challenging time has on hospital patients and care home residents across the UK. This is why we have launched this free initiative, and our whole team is dedicating their work and spare time to make this happen.

£The first donations have been kindly pledged by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Royal Berkshire Fire & Rescue Services, and Torbay Council. We have already secured donations of nearly 4,000 devices, with more being pledged in coming days.

"If any organisation has recently upgraded their mobile fleets, we urge them to donate the devices to Phones for Patients, where they can really make a difference to people's lives.”

Iain O’Neil, Digital Transformation Director at NHSX, said: “Innovation that supports sometimes the simplest but most essential things in life, like helping us all stay in touch, is so important right now. The technology sector continues to share ideas and initiatives designed to support people during this crisis and I commend such efforts in such difficult times. Other interested trusts and care homes are encouraged to join the initiative.”

Nikki Turner, Deputy Director of Digital Services at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Part of our digital strategy is to enable all clinicians to have a mobile device. It has therefore been a priority to ensure that we remain abreast of our device replacement programme and, as a result, we were fortunate to have a stock of unused iPhones. These have been enabled for patients' use.

"To achieve this our team have been working with Apple to provide the device and apps, Wi-Fi Spark to provide the connectivity and EE to provide free calls to remain in contact with their families. So, when we heard about the Bridgeway and NHSX ‘Phones for Patients’ collaboration it was the cherry on top that we are able to help beyond Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and provide some of the devices to help with this initiative.”

Amanda Armstrong
Article by Amanda Armstrong
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