Ofcom responds to reports that deaf and speech-impaired people are experiencing longer than average waits to access Relay UK for regular calls

31 March 2020

Ofcom has advised that it is working closely with the UK’s telecoms providers to ensure that all consumers, including deaf and speech-impaired people, continue to have access to essential communications services. Ofcom confirmed that BT continues to maintain the Relay UK service in light of increasing demand and is prioritising its resources to maintain its 18000 service (the equivalent of 999) to the highest standards.

Ofcom advised that BT has introduced a range of measures to increase the resilience of Relay UK including:

  • Reallocating staff from other duties to relay calls;
  • Recruiting and training additional staff; and
  • Looking at options to reduce hang-ups while callers/called parties are waiting for the relay assistant to be joined to the call.

Text relay calls are currently handled in multiple locations across the UK. Ofcom advised that BT has an additional call centre that it can open if necessary, and this is being considered. BT is also looking into prioritising relay calls to NHS 111.

Please be advised that NHS 111 is now accessible 24 hours a day in British Sign Language, so any Relay UK users who are BSL users have this option: https://interpreternow.co.uk/nhs111

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