NHS England business continuity management toolkit case study: telephony loss

Organisation: Rotherham, Doncaster, and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust
Incident: telephony loss, community mental health trust

What happened

A Community Mental Health Team suffered a loss of voice over internet protocols (VOIP) landline telecommunications to their building that lasted for several days. The effect of the outage was that members of the public and referrers of patients were unable to contact the team. The outage also affected access to IT including email and patient records.

The Business Continuity Plan identified the maximum tolerable period of disruption for the team for the loss of telecoms and IT. This ensured contractors performing repairs were aware of the urgency of the work. Maintenance took place to rectify the situation within the target time set in the plan.

Whilst the loss of the landline was a major inconvenience to the team the contingencies identified in the business continuity plan ensured that the team affected could still deliver their services.

Action taken

The team manager used the Team Business Continuity Plan in order to ensure that services could be maintained by:

  • Deploying staff to back-up accommodation nearby where they could access IT (including patient records)
  • Informing all partner agencies
  • Putting in place a new temporary contact telephone number while maintenance took
    place on the defective equipment

Proactively contacting higher risk patients to inform them of the situation and of the new temporary contact details.

Lessons identified

A number of lessons were identified:

1. All teams to test capability of VOIP systems currently in situ, to ensure staff can log into numbers from backup premises, access voicemail etc.
2. Business continuity leads should be sighted on relevant information from Service Level Agreements to ensure that business continuity plans correspond with service assumptions.
3. Key team member to be identified to liaise with contractors during an incident, to ease workload on others and maintain the ‘single point of contact’ principle with contractor.
4. Consideration to be given to back-up printers/multi-functional units that are independent of VOIP systems to enable “offline” printing.
5. Paper diaries to be maintained in tandem with electronic diaries.
6. Analogue lines to be considered as a backup in some circumstances.