BT wins five NHS contracts to develop Community of Interest Networks

BT has won contracts with five NHS organisations to develop "Community of Interest Networks" to improve data communications.

BT has won contracts with five NHS organisations to develop "Community of Interest Networks" to improve data communications.

The contracts with United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, North Merseyside Health Informatics Service, Sussex Health Informatics Services, Peterborough and Stamford Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and the Kent and Medway Health Informatics Service are together worth about £36 million.

These are in addition to a similar contract BT was awarded last year with the Essex NHS Strategic Health Authority.

The networks are expected to save the NHS money by combining voice, video and data calls over the same network. They will take advantage of N3, the broadband network BT is building for the NHS as part of the National Programme for Information Technology.

The Essex NHS Strategic Health Authority, which awarded its contract to BT last year, has now completed its network.

Although N3 is nationally funded, NHS organisations may offer additional services over the network if they are locally funded. These include applications such as IP telephony and videoconferencing, as well as more efficient ways of dealing with calls, for example the ability to pass calls between GPs or hospitals during busy periods to ensure all calls are answered quickly and efficiently.

Richard Granger, director general of NHS Connecting for Health, said, “This is good news. It shows that progressive NHS Trusts are choosing to embrace technology for the benefit of patients and staff. 

"It is particularly important at a local level that the NHS embraces the potential of the technology that the National Programme is delivering to benefit patients, healthcare professionals and the bottom line.”

Granger said, “By developing Community of Interest Networks these innovative organisations are harnessing the potential of broadband to run their operations more effectively. It can allow information including scans and X-rays to be sent faster and save money on costs such as telephone services.”

Merrill Hayes, programme manager in the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust IM&T department, said, “Our new network has enabled the Trust to implement successfully NHS Connecting for Health digital x-ray systems, known as Picture Archiving Communications Systems (PACS), to all Lincolnshire hospitals.

"This provides significant financial and clinical benefits. X- rays can now be moved between hospitals in seconds rather than days when film was used.” 

BT was awarded the £530m N3 contract in February 2004.
It has since created Europe’s largest virtual private network and connected 96.6% of GP surgeries in England to the network.

The Community of Interest Networks are based on Cisco networking routers and switches and use Cisco software for security firewalls.

Related article: Hospitals face problems with new patient systems

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