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Virtual Visits – Local Administrator Guide

This page provides tailored guidance to Local Administrators (LAs) on how to manage Microsoft Bookings on the NHSmail Portal. It covers the enabling of Microsoft Bookings, the creation, update and deletion of Microsoft Bookings calendars, and management of users on the NHSmail Portal.

Important Note
Guidance tailored to Bookings calendar users (as opposed to LAs) can be found through this link

1. Microsoft Bookings overview

Microsoft Bookings is a scheduling tool. It is part of the Microsoft Office family of products and can be directly added to the Microsoft Teams app. The calendar in Microsoft Bookings is automatically synced with the Teams and NHSmail Outlook calendars.

 

The Virtual Visits solution integrates Microsoft Bookings with Microsoft Teams for NHSmail users. Thanks to Virtual Visits, LAs will be able to activate and manage Microsoft Bookings from the NHSmail Portal. NHSmail users will, in turn, be able to access Microsoft Bookings from within Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Bookings gives calendar administrators the ability to manage appointments for a group of clinicians/healthcare professionals in a single calendar view.

The Bookings app allows patients to join their appointments via Microsoft Teams. This service reduces the complexity of managing virtual appointments, enabling a more secure and user-friendly experience.

Once a Booking calendar has been created, a new email address is created for the calendar. Appointment and reminder emails are sent to the patient (the Booking recipient) via the calendar’s email address; improving security by eliminating the need to share the email addresses of clinicians.

1.1. Naming Convention

o  The calendar’s display name and email address are created automatically and result from combining the organisation’s short name, followed by the service area, followed by the clinic name

  Hence the email address of the calendar is: OrgShortNameServiceAreaClinicName@nhs.net
The Service area field denotes the specific area the clinic is sitting under (for example cardiology, oncology, neurology, etc).

Important Note
Local organisations should ensure that the calendar naming logic used in the Bookings service is communicated to each team member. 

1.2. Types of users on the Bookings app

There are two types of user that can be added to a Booking calendar:

  1. Calendar admin users– who can book on behalf of calendar viewers and can see the schedules of all users that are part of the calendar.
  2. Calendar viewers (or visitors) – who receive emails for appointment bookings and only see their own calendars. These would typically be the clinicians attending Booking appointments.
Known limitations of the service

  • When a user is moved from viewer to admin, either from the Portal or from the Microsoft Bookings app within Microsoft Teams, there is a delay in the synchronisation which means the user does not get the admin level permissions instantaneously. This process might take a couple of hours to be completed.
  • Calendar viewers are currently not able to open Microsoft Bookings from within Microsoft Teams. Please note, nonetheless, that any Bookings that include calendar viewers will be reflected in the user’s Outlook calendar, and the calendar viewer will still be able to join Booking appointments on Microsoft Teams by clicking on the relevant Outlook calendar appointment.

2. Enabling the Microsoft Bookings application

By default, all NHSmail users will have the Bookings app disabled. To utilise Virtual Visits, LAs will be required to enable the Microsoft Bookings either by creating a new User Policy or by editing an existing one. LAs will need to toggle-on the functionality by completing the steps detailed below:

i. Navigate to the Admin tab within the NHSmail Portal and select User Policy Management

ii. Either create a new user policy by selecting Create New User Policy or go to an existing user policy by using one of the search boxes

iii. Select your organisation and the base licence. Please note that LAs are only able to create and edit User Policies for users that are part of their organisation

iv. Toggle the button to switch-on Microsoft Bookings on the Applications pane

v. Include the users on the Policy and save.

Important Note
The selected users will now be able to access the Bookings app through Microsoft Teams once they are added to a Booking calendar.

3. Creating a Booking calendar

LAs can create a new calendar for specific clinics within their organisation by completing the steps detailed below:

i. Navigate to the NHSmail Portal (https://portal.nhs.net)

ii. Under the Admin view, select Booking Calendars and click on Add

iii. Enter your organisation’s details. These will be used to create the new email address for the Booking calendar. The email address will be created automatically, in accordance with the naming convention

  • The new email address and display name will be the result of combining the short organisation name, followed by the service area, followed by the clinic name. Under the Service Namefield, LAs should fill the service area the clinic is sitting under (for example cardiology, oncology, neurology)

Important Notice

Please note that the Service Name and Clinic Name fields cannot include spaces in them.

iv. Reply email addresses will receive all emails from the Booking calendar email address. They should be NHSmail email accounts and will be selected from an email picker. You will be able to update and edit the Reply Email Addressfield after the calendar has been created

v. Add calendar users – with either admin or viewer roles. Please note:

    • Users cannot have both admin and viewer roles
    • The calendar should have at least one admin user before it is created
    • The email addresses will not be typed as free text, but from a dropdown. No shared mailbox account or resource mailbox account – such as rooms – can be added as a calendar user
    • Only users that have been migrated to Exchange Online can be added to the calendar
    • Users for which the Bookings app has not been enabled (as per Section 2 above) will not be able to access the Bookings app through Teams

 

vi. Upon saving changes, the new Booking calendar will be created. Members of staff should receive the email shown below to confirm their membership to the calendar

vii. Once users have approved their membership to the calendar, they will be added to the Bookings calendar and will be able to login to the calendar via Microsoft Teams.

Important Note
Users will not be able to access Booking calendars until Microsoft Bookings has been added to their user policy from the NHSmail Portal (as per Section 2 of this Guidance).

Known limitation of the service


When a Local Administrator is working for a continuous amount of time on the calendar screen within the Booking Calendar section of the Portal, the screen might auto-refresh and take back the user to the User Management screen under the Admin tab.

4. Update or delete an existing Booking calendar

LAs can update existing Booking calendars either to add/remove users or to change the phone number that is paired to the calendar. LAs can also delete calendars from within NHSmail Portal.

4.1. Calendar statuses

Please note that Booking calendars have one of three possible statuses in the Portal: ActiveDeleted or Updating. Calendars have the Updating status when the NHSmail Portal is retrieving information from the Azure app. No further changes can be made to calendars while they are in the Updating status.

4.2. Updating existing calendars

To update the calendar, follow the steps below:

i. Navigate to the Admin Page and select Booking Calendars. Then search for the calendar that you wish to update by searching its Display NameReply Email Address or Organisation. LAs will only be able to access calendars within their organisations

ii. Once you have selected the calendar you wish to update, the details of the calendar will be displayed on the screen. Please note:

  • The editable fields of the calendars are the phone number, reply email address and adding/removing users
  • Users can be part of more than one Booking calendar
  • When an LA removes a user from a specific Booking calendar, said user will still be able to access other Booking calendars they are a part of. Moreover, removing a user from a calendar does not entail the revoking of the provision of Microsoft Bookings to their user policy (as per Section 2).

Known limitation of the service
Calendar admin users and LAs should use a single channel to make updates to the calendar details – either the Bookings app within Microsoft Teams or the NHSmail Portal.

4.3. Deleting a calendar

If you wish to delete a calendar, simply click the Delete button and a confirmation pop up will appear. Upon clicking on Confirm the calendar will be deleted, and it will not be possible to make any more changes to the calendar.

Please note that once deleted, all fields will be locked, while admin and viewer users will be removed from the calendar.

5. Microsoft Bookings Online

While the Microsoft Bookings Web app will be accessible, its functionality for creating and editing Booking calendars and Booking pages will not be available.

Known limitation of the service

NHSmail users will not be able to create, manage or edit Booking calendars from the Microsoft Bookings Web app – creation, edition and management of Bookings calendars will only be supported via the NHSmail Portal and Microsoft Teams.

5.1. Downloading a Booking calendar report

The only function available through the Bookings Web app will be the downloading of a report with the activity of a specific Booking calendar in the last 30 days. To download this report, you will need to follow the steps below:

i. Login to www.office.comwith your NHSmail credentials and select Bookings

ii. Once you are within the Bookings page, on the left-hand side, select the calendar you wish to get the report on

iii. Click on Export 120-day view using a TSV file. You can open the file using Microsoft Excel.

6. Templates for guidance

We have prepared a set of three TEMPLATE PPT guidance to help organisations get started with providing relevant guidance on Microsoft Bookings for:

(i) Calendar admins, (ii) Calendar viewers, (iii) Patients.

Please note that these guidance materials should be tailored to the characteristics of each organisation before circulating.

7. Local Organisation processes

Local Organisations should ensure the following:

  • Where bookings are used, there is a clear process put in place for ensuring that patient confidential information is added to their primary record as soon as possible after the consultation.
  • Have clear policies on record keeping, including the transcription of electronic communications.
  • Undertake mailbox hygiene activities on regular basis to minimise the amount of patient identifiable data residing outside of the core care record.
  • Ensure that sufficient mobile device management capabilities are in place if local policies permit the use of staff’s own mobile devices (BYDOD), including device encryption with enforced password, minimum password length, inactivity timeout and maximum number of failed password attempts (resulting in device wipe-out if exceeded).
  • Ensure the appointment invitation email uses the additional information section to communicate information about preparing for the virtual consultation and what to do if the appointment is unsuitable or if problems are experienced in completing the pre-requisite activities, e.g. unable to download software or having network issues.

8. Known issues and limitations of Microsoft Bookings

There are a number of issues and limitations currently affecting the Microsoft Bookings service. These are not critical to user functionality and have been made known to the appropriate helpdesk either from Microsoft or from NHSmail service. These are detailed below:

Known issues with the service

  1. Email address change not reflected in Portal: When the email address of a Booking calendar member has been changed (for example, after the user’s last name has changed), the updated email address will not be reflected in the NHSmail Portal. Note that the user’s new email address will be included in the system, so the user will still receive emails related to the calendar and will be able to access the calendar from Teams.
  2. Calendar viewers cannot open the Bookings App on Microsoft Teams: Calendar viewers are currently not able to open Microsoft Bookings from within Microsoft Teams. Please note, nonetheless, that any Bookings that include calendar viewers will be reflected in the user’s Outlook calendar. The calendar viewer will still be able to join Booking appointments on Microsoft Teams by clicking on the relevant Outlook calendar appointment.
  3. Calendar Reply Email Address is not updated on Microsoft Teams: When the calendar’s Reply Email Address is updated in the Portal, the change is not reflected back into Microsoft Teams.
  4. Portal page for Booking Calendar auto-refreshes: When a Local Administrator is working for a continuous amount of time on the calendar screen within the Booking Calendar section of the NHSmail Portal, the screen might auto-refresh and take back the user to the User Management screen under the Admin tab.
  5. Delay updating roles from calendar viewers to calendar admins: When a user is moved from viewer to admin, either from the Portal or from the Microsoft Bookings app within Microsoft Teams, there is a delay in the synchronisation – hence, the user does not get the admin level permissions instantaneously. This process might take a couple of hours to be completed.
  6. Lag retrieving a newly created calendar: When a Booking calendar has been created, there might be a considerable lag until the calendar can be retrieved via the search box on the Booking Calendar section of the Admin tab in Portal.

Known limitations of the service

  1. Microsoft Bookings Web app read-only: Microsoft Bookings Web app will be accessible to users only for read-only purposes. This means users will be able to see their calendar, download a report for the calendar’s activity and see the staff members included in the calendar. Users will not be able to create new calendars. New Booking Pages, edit or update calendars from the Microsoft Bookings Web app.

9. Virtual Visits use case

Virtual Visits is a new solution designed to simplify the management of virtual appointments between clinicians and patients.

Building on the capabilities of Microsoft Teams, it utilises Microsoft Bookings to better manage clinicians’ calendars.  The Virtual Visits solution was successfully piloted in a Private Beta earlier this year and is now generally available for NHSmail users who have had their accounts migrated to Exchange Online.

Private Beta users found the Virtual Visits solution of significant value in enabling NHS organisations to host video consultations with their patients. Users noted the following benefits:

  • Improved security and data privacy – clinicians’ email addresses are cloaked from patients
  • Patients at all levels of digital maturity are empowered – patients join calls simply by clicking on an MS Teams link, without the need to download the app
  • Improved user experience for administrative staff – the Bookings app provides calendar admins and booking staff with the ability to manage appointments for a group of clinicians in a single calendar view

In addition to these benefits, Private Beta users suggested a range of contexts where the Virtual Visits solution could bring added value to NHS organisations:

  • While currently community nurses travel between locations to treat patients in person, they could use Virtual Visits to initially assess their patients on a video call and determine if a physical visit is necessary. This could reduce the need for travel and lead to more efficient use of their time
  • Group clinics could take place virtually. These are currently difficult or not possible due to social distancing regulations. Examples include cardiac rehabilitation, diabetes group discussions and therapy. Virtual Visits would allow for these clinics to be held without the need for attendees to be physically present
  • As other relevant invitees can be carbon copied into specific bookings, Virtual Visits could also be used to facilitate remote job interviews for recruitment, to enable group training for GPs and internal NHS staff or to conduct appointments between multiple healthcare professionals and a single patient. Please note that, currently, bookings cannot be blind carbon copied

The Private Beta sites welcomed Virtual Visits being made available on a wider scale, with 82% of users likely to recommend the solution to a colleague and commending its ease of use. This capability is a significant step forward in enabling virtual healthcare in the NHS.

10. FAQs

Question Answer
Can users who are being forwarded meetings be cloaked? Yes, when a patient has joined using the link sent to them, they are joining as a guest and will not see the email/contact information of the NHSmail users regardless of whether they were originally added into the Bookings appointment or forwarded the invite after.

 

How will the service email be used, and will patients see this? The service email is the email of the actual practice and will be linked to the shared mailbox. Patients will not see the service email however if they reply to the scheduling mailbox then the response will redirect to the service email.

 

What is the difference between Office 365 (O365) and Exchange Online?

 

O365 means having access to all the Microsoft products but Exchange Online means migrating NHS staff member’s Outlook calendar to the cloud instead of the NHSmail data servers. By doing this, they will have their Outlook calendar synced to their Teams and therefore the ability to use the Microsoft Bookings. As part of the Virtual Visits, it is required users have been migrated to Exchange Online. The O365 products available to NHS staff will be the products enabled by NHSmail which is Teams, SharePoint, Outlook and in this case, the addition of the Bookings app.
Can Bookings app users be part of more than one Bookings calendars? Microsoft Bookings users can be part of several Bookings app calendars. Users will have to switch between calendars from within the Microsoft Bookings app. Follow the steps detailed in Section 4 of this guide to switch between calendars.
Who to contact if users require support for Microsoft Bookings? NHSmail users who require support for Microsoft Bookings should contact their local IT Support teams.

If local IT Support teams are unable to resolve the request, Local IT Support Teams should raise an incident with the NHSmail helpdesk only if the incident relates to NHSmail’s Portal functionality. If the incident is related to the functionality of Microsoft Teams, LAs should contact the relevant Microsoft helpdesk.

Can users be added to a Bookings calendar even if they have not been enabled by a Local Admin to use Microsoft Bookings? NHSmail users that have been migrated to Exchange Online can be added to a Bookings calendar regardless of whether their Local IT Support team has enabled their access to Microsoft Bookings via the NHSmail Portal.

In this case, users will receive the email to confirm their inclusion to the Bookings calendar but will not be able to open the Bookings app. Users should contact their Local IT Support team to ensure Microsoft Bookings is added to their User Policy from the NHSmail Portal.

What happens when a user is deleted from a calendar? If a user is deleted from a calendar, they will not be able to access that calendar anymore and won’t be able to be added to Bookings from that calendar.

If said user is part of more than one calendar, they will continue to be a part of the other calendars.

The Microsoft Bookings will continue to be enabled for the user from the NHSmail Portal even if they are deleted from all Bookings calendars.

What happens if I cannot access the Booking calendar on Teams ? If a calendar is not accessible for a calendar admin user, please check (i) that the Bookings license has been activated by a toggle-on in the user policy of said user by the appropriate LA; and (ii) that the user has accepted its inclusion to the Booking calendar by clicking on Manage Membership on the automatic email sent to their email account, as showed on Section 3, step iv.

 

Updated on 04/02/2021

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