To support GP surgeries that need additional telephone capacity, Teams Phone System for outbound calls is being enabled on Microsoft (MS) Teams for some organisations. This service enables MS 365 Phone System and Calling Plan licences to allow users at these practices to make anonymised outbound only calls independently of their existing telephone solutions. This will free up the existing lines for incoming calls. This is a cloud-based functionality and will not require installation of additional physical equipment.
Practices will retain their current telephony supplier and associated number in place to support the receiving of calls. This national offer is an additional component to the MS Teams application currently provided and will increase telephone capacity at no additional cost to the practice.
Practices that are part of the national NHSmail tenant and have expressed an interest in onboarding to Teams Phone System for outbound calls will automatically be given access to the capability. If you are part of a GP practice that would like to participate and have not yet expressed an interest, please contact email@example.com citing your practice name and ODS code.
Below is a summary of key technical considerations for Local Administrators (LAs) to prepare for and to use Teams Phone System for outbound calls across their organisation. Please note that without the necessary prerequisites, users may not be able to access Teams Phone System for outbound calls or may experience issues.
Technical Readiness & Preparation
Teams is designed to give the best audio experience regardless of your network conditions. However, when bandwidth is insufficient Teams performance may be impacted. For more information about Teams and bandwidth requirements see here.
Network optimisation may be required if your users are experiencing any of the following issues:
- Teams runs slowly (you may have insufficient bandwidth)
- Calls keep dropping (this may be due to firewall or proxy blockers)
- Calls sound static or cut out, or voices sound robotic (this may be jitter or packet loss)
Depending on Teams consumption across your organisation, there may be a requirement to uplift bandwidth in conjunction with your local network provider.
There are a series of self-help steps provided by Microsoft should you experience any issues when using Teams. Find these here.
If low bandwidth prevents the use of HSCN, we recommend the following options:
- Install an additional HSCN line for telephony (if timeframe permits)
- Use a private internet connection (if already in place and of sufficient bandwidth)
- Apply to access the levelling up funding available via the Better Connectivity for Health Programme
To use the Teams Phone System for outbound calls your practice staff will need to use MS Teams. Teams can be used through the desktop client application, the browser-based version, or the mobile application. If used through a computer, an appropriate headset and microphone will be required.
For more guidance on MS Teams, visit the NHSmail support site.
Administration & Management
As part of the initial rollout (December 2021), practices that expressed an interest in onboarding to Teams Phone System for outbound calls will automatically be bulk assigned MS Phone System and Calling Plan licences by the national team. These licences will be allocated to users on your behalf to remove the administrative burden of updating user policies. If you are part of a participating practice, the new licences can be managed for your organisation via user policies as normal through the NHSmail portal. For more information on viewing, editing, or deleting a user policy, please see the User Policy Management support documentation.
If you are part of a GP practice that would like to participate and have not yet expressed an interest, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org citing your practice name and ODS code.
Joiners and Leavers
If a user is removed from a phone system user policy, the add-on phone system licences will be automatically removed as well as their telephone number and they will no longer be able to access Teams Phone System for outbound calls.
If you add a new user to a phone system policy, the Phone System and Calling Plan licences will automatically be applied for the user. It may take up to 30 minutes for a telephone number to be added to the account following licence assignment.
Teams Mobile – Information Governance (IG) Considerations
It is recommended that organisations, particularly where personal mobile devices are in use, undertake an IG assessment to determine suitable usage guidelines. There are currently no central policy settings available from Microsoft to prevent this from occurring on mobile devices.
If this is deemed unacceptable for specific users, Local Administrators can disable users access to this functionality. Please follow the guidance here on how to remove access.
Teams Phone System for outbound calls Functionality
Teams Phone System for outbound calls enables Microsoft 365 Phone System and Calling Plan licences for NHSmail users on MS Teams. NHSmail users can use Teams to place calls through the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), transfer calls, and mute or unmute calls using their mobile devices or computers. Not all Phone System and Calling Plan functionality is included in the Teams Phone System for outbound calls. See below for more details of what is included.
What is included in Teams Phone System for outbound calls:
|Outbound Calls: Users can make outbound calls via the PSTN from the Calls tab of their Teams client.|
|Integrated Dial Pad: Users can either dial a phone number manually or copy / paste a number into the integrated dial pad.|
|Anonymised Calls: All calls are anonymised as Caller ID will not be displayed for the person receiving the call.|
|Place on Hold: Users can place a call on hold by selecting More Actions then Hold in their call controls. When a call is placed on hold, users can place another call and default hold music will be played for the receiver.|
|Transfer a Call: Users can transfer a call to another person by selecting More Actions then Transfer in their call controls. Users can also transfer the call to a different device if they need to leave their office but want to continue the conversation.|
|Consult then Transfer: Users can consult the person they want to transfer a call to before they transfer it. They can do this by selecting Consult then Transfer under More Actions in the call controls. The call receiver will be put on hold while this happens.|
What is not included in Teams Phone System for outbound calls:
|Inbound Calls: Users can only dial-out using Teams Phone System for outbound calls. All incoming PSTN calls using this service are blocked. This means Cloud Auto Attendants and Cloud Call Queues are also disabled for Teams Phone System for outbound calls.|
|Integration with Clinical Applications: Teams Phone System for outbound calls is not in any way linked to other applications, including clinical records.|
|International Calls: Users can only place calls to UK domestic landlines and mobiles using Teams Phone System for outbound calls.|
|Group Calls: Teams Phone System for outbound calls can be used to make 1-1 phone calls over the PSTN. It cannot be used to make group calls.|
|Recording Calls: The recording feature has been switched off for Teams Phone System for outbound calls.|
|Emergency Calls: Teams Phone System for outbound calls should not be used for emergency calls.|
|Local Reporting: Local reporting on call volumes using Teams Phone System for outbound calls will not be available.|
Further Help & Support
Check out Frequently Asked Questions for simple troubleshooting tips and additional guidance.