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BT to offer national videoconferencing service over N3 NHS broadband network


New easy-to-use service will reduce the cost of videoconferencing and save NHS money on business travel

BT today announced that it is to offer NHS Trusts a national videoconferencing service over N3, the secure national broadband network it has built and is managing for the NHS.

The new service will be managed by the company’s conferencing unit, BT Conferencing, and promises to take the complexity out of Trusts running their own videoconferencing services.

Within the NHS, videoconferencing services have tended to be set up on a local basis, often for use inside a specific Trust which is then responsible for booking and scheduling calls and managing the bandwidth and infrastructure.

With the N3 Video Conferencing Managed Service, all this is taken care of by BT as all the necessary infrastructure is built into the N3 network. This offers NHS significant savings in terms of set up costs, as well as making it much easier to set up video calls internally as well as to other Trusts around the country.

It is anticipated that the new service will increase the use of videoconferencing across the NHS by making it easier to use and maintain, while at the same time making it more cost effective to operate.

It is also expected to encourage more innovative use of the technology and help keep NHS costs down and improve productivity by cutting the time staff spend travelling to and from meeting at the same time as reducing CO2 emissions.

Len Chard, NHS Connecting for Health N3 programme manager, said: “Videoconferencing has huge potential to save the NHS money and make it more efficient both in clinical and business terms. The new managed service will take away a lot of the hassle in running and using videoconferencing, making it easier to use and maintain, at the same time as reducing costs. This is expected to increase usage and encourage greater innovation. We have already seen examples of this in a number NHS Trusts where videoconferencing is available. The greater take up can only open up more exciting possibilities.”

The work of multi disciplinary teams where groups of experts gather to review and diagnose patient scans and pathology, is being transformed by the advent of video conferencing. Case meetings can now take place via video links offering huge benefits for patients who can have their case reviewed by a number of experts instead of just one.

John Abbott, BT’s chief executive of N3, said: “In some Trusts we are aware that the complexity of running a videoconferencing service has been a barrier to greater usage and the equipment has ended up hardly being used. That’s where the N3 BT Conferencing service has the advantage. It solves these issues by making it easy to set up calls within a Trust as well as to other Trusts. As a common service across the NHS, Trusts will be able to easily set up video conference calls with each other using an online booking system. This will allow users to book meetings remotely and simply walk into the room when the meeting is starting.”

The service, available from June this year, will work with most Trust’s existing systems and will be supported by a free online and telephone helpline. Trusts can sign up for the service today and place orders for terminal equipment.

Note to editors

BT has been playing a prominent role in the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT). It is delivering three key contracts – the national database and messaging service, known as the Spine, the local service provider contract where it is modernising NHS IT in London and the South of England and N3, the national broadband network that underpins the whole programme.

BT completed the network two months early in January 2007. Today, it is one of Europe’s largest Virtual Private Networks with more than 43,000 connections throughout England and Scotland. Replacing old and more expensive technology, it provides the foundation for other frontline applications which simply could not function without it. It supports, for example, the complete transfer of a patient’s complete GP record in the fraction of the time it used to take.
It is also helping the NHS to make efficiency and quality improvements. The N3 network has now been voice enabled, making it possible for trusts to converge their voice and data over a single network – reducing the cost of internal phone calls and calls to mobiles.
Now more than 100 NHS organisations are using N3 voice services and over three million calls have been made over the N3 network.


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