Multitone are delighted to announce that, as part of the NHSX Clinical Communications Procurement Framework, we will be able to offer NHS Trusts our innovative, hi-tech communications solutions as a replacement for their non-critical paging.

Why is the NHS phasing out non-critical paging by the end of 2021?

The government has set a target for NHS Trusts nationwide to cease the use of non-critical paging by the end of 2021. The objective is to streamline and improve clinical communications amongst NHS staff by switching to digital alternatives to paging. With Multitone’s messaging app, clinicians will be able to look up the colleague they need by name or specialism via a centralised database, and then speak with them by voice or video call, or real-time messaging over WiFi or cellular data. They will be able to easily exchange patient notes, photographs and video, and communicate one-to-one or in groups and teams, all with the knowledge that all their communications are fully secure and compliant with privacy laws. This represents a great improvement over some existing NHS practises which can involve using multiple devices and communication systems, as demonstrated here.

Why should NHS Trusts choose Multitone?

Multitone’s messaging app, working with our i-Message platform, meets all of the NHS’s requirements for a communications tool to replace non-critical paging, providing secure messaging, image sharing, voice and video calls, a full staff directory and more, whilst complying with all the relevant data protection and patient safety regulations.

However, thanks to its integration with Multitone i-Message, which is available as an on-site hardware and a cloud offering, we’re able to offer much more than just a clinical communications tool. i-Message can integrate the existing, and ongoing, use of critical paging with the new digital communications platform, ensuring there is a single system for communications throughout the entire hospital. This prevents the Trust from having siloed communications tools and reduces complexity in clinical workflows.

Better yet, with i-Message, Trusts have the option to adopt a host of additional apps and systems, either from the get-go or at a later date. As well as our clinical messaging app, we can offer a sophisticated asset tracking and management system, personal staff safety alarms, building system integration and management, specialist major incident communications, mass communications, digital paging for task allocation and more.

Many NHS Trusts throughout the United Kingdom already have Multitone i-Message systems, which means all they need to do is contact us to modify their existing setup and add our messaging app, and any other tools they decide to adopt, into their communications mix whilst retiring their non-critical paging. This also makes adoption of the new tools much easier, as Trusts already have a working relationship with Multitone as well as staff trained on the use of i-Message. For NHS Trusts working with us for the first time, however, the process couldn’t be easier, with our UK-based engineers and IT specialists on hand to guide them through the adoption process.

Will the NHS end the use of pagers altogether?

Recently, a number of articles have referred to pagers as “archaic” or “outdated”, and have implied the NHS will replace them altogether. Indeed, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has urged the NHS to “purge the pager”. However, this is an oversimplification. The simple fact is, the NHS will continue to use pagers for critical communications as paging remains the most reliable technology for the most urgent messages. As a result, Multitone will continue to offer critical paging systems and continue to support existing critical paging systems.

Why is paging still the best technology for critical messaging?

Pagers, also known as “bleepers” in the NHS, will continue to be used by crash teams and other personnel for emergency messages. When a patient’s condition suddenly becomes critical, the relevant staff must respond as quickly as possible. Should the message summoning staff to the patient fail or be delayed, this could be fatal.

Paging, based on a local radio transmitter, provides highly-reliable message transmission, independent of the internet or cellular networks, which can penetrate concrete and easily provides full coverage within the hospital’s grounds. Pagers are loud and impossible to ignore, and give a clear instruction to users by voice and text, telling them where they need to go. Pagers are relatively small and can be clipped to a belt or pocket so they’re easily accessible, are resistant to falls and liquids, and have much longer battery lives than smartphones.

For these circumstances, other technologies simply can’t provide the same robustness or reliability. Cellular networks can struggle to reach inside some parts of buildings, and are vulnerable to high-traffic or technical problems. WiFi networks can also fail, as can the external internet connection. Smartphones themselves are complex, relatively fragile, have short battery lives, and are prone to software or hardware errors (though ruggedised handsets are available). When it comes to critical messaging, like that required when a patient goes into cardiac arrest, a loss of service is simply not an option.

Finally, calling pagers “archaic” is a misnomer. Whilst pagers are largely based on proven technology which has existed for some time, some modern pagers allow for two-way messaging and can operate on 4G networks. The design of pagers and technology within them has improved consistently over time, and as NHS bleepers are designed for a healthcare environment, they’re easy to clean, able to withstand moisture and dust, are robust and are easy to operate whilst wearing PPE.

By choosing Multitone as part of the Clinical Communications Procurement Framework, NHS Trusts will have a single supplier for both their critical paging needs and their clinical communications tools, integrated into a single system for maximum operational effectiveness.

Find out more about our solutions

To learn more about our messaging app, visit multitone.com/solutions/messenger-app

For an overview of our other solutions, which are available with the i-Message system, click here.