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Unify UC deployment helps prep NHS Trust for NPfIT exit

Alex Scroxton

London’s Royal Free NHS Trust has embarked on a major unified communications deployment with Unify – formerly Siemens Enterprise Communications – as it overhauls several systems ahead of its oncoming exit from the National Programme for IT.

The five-year, £2m deal displaces a legacy Nortel deployment that, according to Royal Free director of information management and technology, Will Smart, was some years beyond obsolescence. Its replacement, he said, was the Trust’s first priority.

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“We ended up with Unify because they best met our requirements, both financially and in terms of how they planned to engage with us,” said Smart. “They have a structured methodology, and we had confidence in their structure and processes from their other engagements.”

Smart said it was important for the Trust to feel like it didn’t have to re-invent the wheel, given that rolling out a whole new communications system across a number of clinical areas has to be done quickly and with a minimum of disruption to patient care.

Unify’s decision, taken last year, to rebrand Siemens Enterprise Communications also played a small part in the Trust’s decision, said Smart, because it had engaged with the parent – which has a medical equipment division – in the past.

Under the terms of the deal, won after a tender on Lot 1 (voice) of the PSN Framework, Unify will deploy a complete OpenScape suite of voice, UC and wireless mobility products, and 6,300 extensions for IP-based SIP phones for both clinical and admin staff across the Trust’s sites.

Key benefits

  • One Number working for doctors and support staff, with desk handsets and mobile devices accepting voice, data and email comms, boosting collaboration, responsiveness and workload management
  • Interactive voice recognition technology, allowing staff to direct high incoming call volumes and improve user and patient call experience.
  • OpenScape devices run on a VMware infrastructure to de-couple data and applications from fixed and departmental computers, resulting in more dynamic patient management processes.
  • UC features reduce and eliminate some costs such as circuit and call charges.
  • OpenScape enables the Trust’s ICT and Estate units to scale up or down to account for changing care demands in the future.

Unify will also provide user training and a technology support team to look after software assurance and system updates over the course of the agreement.

Its systems are already live at one site, the Tottenham Hale Kidney and Diabetes Centre, and are in the process of being rolled out to the Trust’s other locations, said Smart. A full pilot deployment will be in place by the end of the year.

Unify MD for West Region, EMEA, Trevor Connell, said: “The OpenScape UC platform will provide simpler and more convenient access to key Trust staff across different sites.

“The system will be fully scalable to the Trust’s changing needs, whether heavily used services such as A&E, or new hospital facilities. It will greatly reduce fixed and variable costs as well as system maintenance needs.”

Facing the future

The Unify UC deployment forms just one component of a significant ongoing IT transformation plan at the Royal Free London Trust, driven in part by the end of the government’s failed National Programme for IT (NPfIT).

“We will be the first NHS Trust in London to exit the NPfIT,” said Smart, “so we are really acting as a pilot.”

With its June 2014 exit date now drawing very close, the race is on to ensure key systems are functioning correctly, and that the Trust will be able to come off the programme with an absolute minimum of disruption to a safety-critical environment.

To this end, a lot of work has been going on across the Trust’s network, and in other areas, too, Smart explained.

“We have been working on wireless infrastructure and Power over Ethernet on all our IP networks,” said Smart. “We have in the past few months implemented BYOD infrastructure, but it’s not yet widely deployed – Unify now gives us the ability to manage third party devices on the network.

“We are also about to install a document management system for legacy patient care notes, so there is lots of background technology work.”

As well as the Trust’s imminent exit from NPfIT, it is also in the middle of acquiring nearby Barnet and Chase Farm NHS Trust which, according to Smart, has made for “one of the most exciting aspects of the deployment,” giving the IT team the opportunity to work across different site platforms – although coincidentally Barnet and Chase Farm also has a Siemens Enterprise Comms switchboard – and “think differently about how we operate.”


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