Government buys £6m of iPads for care homes

Contract covers the delivery of 11,000 devices, plus accessories and upkeep

Credit: Pxhere

The government spent £6m to equip care homes across England with iPads.

Newly released procurement information reveals that, on 3 November, the Department of Health and Social Care signed a contract with IT provider Jigsaw24. The deal, the worth of which is specified as £6,001,000, runs until 27 December 2021. 

The engagement covers the provision of 11,000 machines – the amount that health secretary Matt Hancock pledged the government would deliver when announcing the plan in September. The rollout and ongoing management of the tablets will be overseen by NHSX.

The contract is intended to last for one year beyond the date of the delivery to care homes of the last of these devices.

Alongside the iPads themselves, Jigsaw24 has been asked to provide Jamf Pro mobile device management software, and the Apple Business Manager tool for managing apps across organisations.

The devices must be at least as modern as the 7th generation of iPads, which were released in 2019. They must be able to connect to 4G and WiFi – and switch seamlessly between the two, where required – and be equipped with a USB charger and plug, procurement information indicates.

The installed SIM cards must be equipped with at least 12 months of data, constituting “a minimum monthly allowance per device per month that the supplier recommends as sufficient for multiple video calls per day, every day”.

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“The data should be pooled so that extra usage can be taken from under-usage on another,” the contract said. “NHSX would like to understand the per-GB cost for exceeding that pooled limit.”

During the tender process, NHSX also asked suppliers to provide details of possible options and costs to assist care homes that are situated in rural areas and may suffer from weaker connectivity.

The devices themselves should be delivered in a stripped-down form with limited programs installed and a priority on immediate ease of use.

“NHSX requires the supplier to remove all device applications and install and configure lightweight unified endpoint management (UEM) software prior to the device being delivered,” the contract said. “The device should arrive at a care home in a ready-to-use state, along with a guidance cheat sheet to assist users with first use, including connection to WiFi or 4G data networks.”

The goal is to “create an ‘out of the box’ experience for the user, where the iPad can be used when delivered to the care home without any further set-up.”.

Although NHSX requested that the supplier ensure that Apple ID and biometric logins could be set up once the device had been delivered and “without disrupting the UEM”.

The management tool should enable “a simple, user-friendly home screen” that initially displays only a small number of apps and bookmarks, including Microsoft Teams, NHSmail, Apple care, an NHSX homepage, support telephone numbers, and a bespoke app store from which users can download approved software. Care home staff should also have the ability to put their own most commonly used apps on the home screen.

The contract added: “NHSX requires that a protective case be provided for each device. The case must: be splashproof and cleanable with alcohol wipes; be smash- and drop-resistant; allow the device to stand independently; [and] have a hand support feature.”

Once the devices have been delivered, Jigsaw24 has been tasked with offering service-desk support for a minimum period of one year.

“At this point, NHSX is unable to confirm the funding position for any possible continuation of the UEM or service desk provision, past the initial 12 months required,” procurement documents said. “Therefore, NHSX requires bidders to provide options to enable: the data SIM to be transferred to any nominated care homes for their onward use after the initial 12-month period, to be funded by the individual care homes included and supported by a suitable agreement; [and] continued operation, support and use of the UEM and service desk by nominated care homes after the initial 12 months, to be funded by the individual care home included and supported by a suitable agreement.”

The total of 11,000 iPads equates to about one each for all of England’s homes for the elderly or those suffering from dementia – although facilities were permitted to apply to receive two.

The cost-per-device equates to £545.45, including all software, accessories, support and delivery – which was the responsibility of Jigsaw24. During the rollout phase, the company was tasked with delivering to care homes across the country as many as 3,700 iPads per week.


Sam Trendall

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