BT has been awarded a £530m contract to provide and manage a broadband network to link all NHS organisations in the UK. The National Programme for NHS IT expects the contract to lead to savings of £900m over seven years.
The New National Network, also known as N3, will underpin key parts of the National Programme including electronic booking and the NHS Care Records Service. It will make the NHS the first major user of significant broadband capacity in the public sector.
The number of sites served will be increased from 10,000 - under the existing NHSnet contract - to all 18,000 NHS locations and sites.
The National Programme expects N3 to speed up the transfer of key clinical data between NHS organisations significantly. In addition, it is expected to enable faster electronic transmission of visual data, such as video and x-rays.
Under the terms of the contract, BT will act as an integrator, rather than providing a broadband service themselves. This means the integrator will purchase connections from a constantly updated set of national and local telecoms companies who have competed to provide the service at best value, said Richard Granger, director general of NHS IT
“This will deliver substantial cost savings - saving the NHS up to £900m over seven years compared to the cost of procuring the same capacity through the existing NHSnet contracts,” he said.
The network will enable transmission of voice and video information as well as data including e-mails, medical information, test results and GP payment information. This will allow NHS organisations to use the network for their telephone systems, which could enable the NHS to make significant savings on its telephone bill.
All confidential medical information transmitted over the network will be secured using industry standard security protocols. In addition, confidential medical information will be protected by further security measures built into the NHS Care Records Service.