What is priority assistance?
Priority assistance is a service that gives priority for the connection and fault repair of fixed-line home telephone services for customers with a serious medical condition who are at risk of suffering a rapid, life-threatening deterioration in their condition.
The service is offered by Telstra to ensure access to a reliable, fully operational home telephone service to call for assistance.
To be eligible, someone living in a customer's household must have such a diagnosed life-threatening medical condition, where access to a telephone could assist in a life-threatening situation.
Priority assistance entitlements
Priority assistance customers are entitled to faster connection and fault repair of their fixed-line telephone service, thus reducing the time that customers will be without access to a phone service. For a priority assistance customer, a service must be connected, or a fault repaired, within 24 hours in urban and rural areas (an area with a population of more than 200 people) or 48 hours in remote areas (an area with a population of less than 200 people).
In addition, Telstra undertakes to provide priority assistance customers with enhanced service reliability, so that if a priority assistance customer experiences two or more faults in a three-month period, the phone service must be tested.
Who offers priority assistance?
Telstra is the only carrier required to provide priority assistance services to its customers as a condition of its licence. Under the licence condition, Telstra must have an effective policy for offering priority assistance services to people who have a life-threatening medical condition.
Other carriage service providers may voluntarily offer priority assistance services that comply with the requirements of the Communications Alliance Ltd industry code (ACIF C609:2007 Priority Assistance for Life Threatening Medical Conditions), which was registered by the ACMA. The code was designed to establish consistent, industry-wide arrangements for providing assistance to residential customers with life-threatening medical conditions.
Part 6 in Schedule 2 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 requires service providers to either offer a priority assistance service or inform customers of the names of carriage service providers who do offer priority assistance services.
Telstra's policy for priority assistance arrangements are set out in its Priority Assistance for Individuals Policy. The policy and information about Telstra Priority Assistance can be found on the Telstra website or by contacting Telstra on 13 22 00.
How to apply
Enquiries about how to apply for priority assistance should be made to your carriage service provider.
Eligibility for priority assistance is available for people who require the telephone to access emergency medical treatment or advice to reduce the possibility of death from a diagnosed life-threatening medical condition. To qualify, the residential customer, or a resident of their household, must be known to have a condition where there is a substantially increased risk of a life-threatening emergency:
- with a significantly increased possibility of a rapid deterioration in the person’s condition, to the point that it becomes life-threatening; and
- where prompt attendance by an ambulance, or prompt provision of telephone advice by a doctor or health professional could avert the incidence of death.
Medical conditions criteria
Medical practitioners may be asked to certify that one or more of their patients are being treated for a medical condition, in accordance with the eligibility criteria outlined in the priority assistance code. The criteria includes respiratory, cardiovascular, obstetrics or neonatal emergencies and patients at risk of life threatening hypoglycaemia or epilepsy.
The full criteria are outlined in the code: Priority assistance for life threatening medical conditions ACIF C609:2007.
Things you should know about priority assistance:
- priority assistance only applies to standard telephone services
- customers must let their service provider know of any changed circumstances that may affect their eligibility for priority assistance
- customers need to advise their service provider when moving residence, moving from one service provider to another or where there is a change to the customer/lessee name for a service
These arrangements are in place to ensure that, as a priority assistance customer, you get the highest level of service available. Despite these safeguards, it is not always possible to guarantee continuity of service for customers in medical emergencies.
For more information about priority assistance services, please refer to the ACMA website.
For more information about Telstra's obligations to provide priority assistance, contact the ACMA's Industry Monitoring Section.
The ACMA has fact sheets on a range of topics.
Please note: this document is intended as a guide only and should not be relied on as legal advice or regarded as a substitute for legal advice in individual cases.