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Suffolk unifies communications with Cisco

Antony Savvas

Patients and healthcare staff in Suffolk will be able to communicate more easily and more cheaply with a Cisco Unified Communications system being implemented across 200 healthcare locations in the county.

Implemented by Cisilion, a Cisco partner, the system will be one of the first voice over IP (VoIP) systems to be deployed over the NHS N3 network.

Part of the National Programme for IT, this network provides the NHS with fast broadband communications services.

The Cisco Unified Communications system is expected to help Suffolk NHS organisations improve healthcare provision by allowing health workers to be more mobile and by bringing services closer to patients.

Doctors, community nurses and child health visitors will be accessible via their own direct dial numbers, making it simpler and easier for them to work from any location.

Significant cost savings are expected because the Cisco Unified Communications system makes centralised management much easier and will reduce the need for on-site engineer visits.

Further cost savings will be gained by reducing the cost of internal calls in Suffolk and with other NHS organisations outside the region via N3, and by replacing the number and types of telephone systems scattered around the region with a single system integrated with the existing data network.

The Cisco Unified Communications system is also being used to manage two virtual call centre services, one for general patient enquiries and the second for Suffolk Support Services' internal IM&T Service Desk.

The system is being managed by Suffolk Support Services, which provides ICT  to the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust and the Suffolk Primary Care Trust.

Nick Rackham, technical programme manager at Suffolk Support Services, said, "The Cisco Unified Communications system is crucial to providing an effective healthcare service, especially as Suffolk is making health services more mobile and much more accessible to the community.”

The Cisco Unified Communications system is being deployed to about 4,000 NHS healthcare and administration staff at locations such as health clinics, care homes and NHS management headquarters in the region.

Some of Suffolk's 103 newer GP surgeries are also being connected to the system, with the other GPs expected to be connected over the next few years.

The Cisco Unified Communications system will also be used to manage communications in the Suffolk PCT Silver Command Centre, a command-and-control facility to coordinate emergency services in the event of a major incident.

Scarborough NHS Trust upgrades to Cisco high bandwidth wireless network >>

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Tony Collins' IT projects blog >>

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