Facebook (FB) has pledged to donate 2,050 of its computer tablets to the NHS to allow COVID-19 patients to video call with loved ones.
The Department of Health and Social Care said on Thursday 9 April that Facebook would donate its Portal tablets to hospitals, care homes, and other care facilities such as hospices and autism units.
“Technology has never been so important to providing one of life’s most essential things – the ability to communicate with the people we love regardless of where they are,” said Iain O’Neil, NHSX digital transformation director.
The Portal devices, which usually cost £119 ($147) each, will start being delivered across the UK from this week. The device relies on wifi but NHSX, which brokered the deal, said it was “actively exploring connectivity options for care homes without wifi.”
Minister for Care Helen Whately said: “Social distancing is tough on us all, and we must remember how beneficial interaction with loved ones is for our wellbeing.
“I’m delighted that NHSX is partnering with Facebook to make it easier for those in care homes to keep in touch with friends and family, alongside the ongoing hard work by NHSX to expand communication capabilities across the health and social care sector.”
Dr Freddy Abnousi, head of health technology at Facebook, said: “We designed Portal to give people an easy way to connect and be more present with their loved ones. With the global pandemic and social distancing measures, the ability to stay connected is more important than ever.”
Portal was first launched by Facebook in 2018 as a smart display device. Portals can conduct video calls through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which is also owned by Facebook. The device is also integrated with Amazon’s Alexa voice control service.