O2 'cock-up' caused hospital comms chaos -

Network operator O2 is considering putting a phone mast back in place at a Sussex hospital - after it was removed without alternative provisions, causing communication chaos for residents and medical staff.

Sussex Royal County hospital gave O2 notice of its planned renovations in April 2012. However, an alternative location had not been sourced, leaving customers in the dark when transmitters were removed late March this year.

Removing the mast cut off customers from the network, leaving many hospital staff out of reach, according to Brighton newspaper the Argus.

A spokesperson for O2 has said it's looking for legal permission to put the mast back but isn't sure when it can be up and running again.

One radiology expert told the Argus that the blackout "directly resulted in delay of patient care" - and neither he or patients were able to reach each other. "I rely heavily on my phone whilst working, especially when on-call," Dr Hugh Harvey said.

Meanwhile, Brighton & Hove city councillor Gill Mitchell said the whole situation was a cock-up.

"The hospital trust told O2 they had 18 months to remove the post and O2 just put a date in their diary and then removed it, even though the hospital renovation could be more than a year away," Mitchell said.

Last week, another doctor told the Argus that working at the hospital was like working in the "third world," going on to say removing the mast made it impossible to contact doctors, or consultants, and was having a direct effect on hospital patients.

"In fact, it's worse than that – in India you can make calls, at the hospital you get nothing", the member of staff said. "We can't text, we can't get through to our consultants and O2 are just hiding behind their website.

O2 has issued an apology to affected customers and has promised that it is "absolutely committed to resolving this" as soon as it can.

"We are progressing several options with the utmost urgency in order to restore full service as quickly as possible," the spokesperson said.

For now, O2 is offering credit as compensation, including free line rental for one month.

A spokesperson for O2 told TechEye that nearby masts have been optimised to improve signal strength for customers in the area. This "has made some improvement" but O2's network team is also "looking at several other locations to build a temporary or permanent site nearby" as quickly as it can.

O2 is "in negotiation with the hospital to locate a site on the hospital or in its grounds, and in addition to this we are talking to other local businesses and organisations about locating a temporary mast on their land".