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Birmingham trust signs up to VoIP

Joins NHS national broadband network

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The Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust has signed a contract with BT to host its IP telephony services.

The services will be delivered over the NHS national broadband network, N3, which is being rolled out by BT as part of the £12bn NPfIT.

The trust is one of the first NHS organisations to sign up to the new N3 Hosted Voice Service, which delivers phone calls over the 4.5Gb network using voice over IP technology (VoIP).

The service will manage the IP infrastructure for three new sites at the trust - reducing administration costs and allowing the trust to invest more resources into local service improvements.

Initially including 280 centrally-managed IP telephony handsets from Cisco, the contract was announced by BT on October 4 2007. It will remove the need for on-site voice switches and equipment. By connecting to the N3 voice gateway, free on-net calls and reduced tariff fixed mobile calls will also be available.

Stuart Hill, chief executive of N3SP, said: "For the first time ever, the information and communications of healthcare organisations are being brought together to benefit from reduced costs, reduced complexity and increased functionality."

He told GC News: "It's really about this big network, which is a wide area network, growing up. Firstly, we've VoIP-enabled it. We've got Quality of Service which will allow the prioritisation of traffic across the network. So you can choose voice to be number one priority, picture archiving communication systems to be number two etc.

"On top of that, we have developed a Hosted Voice Service, which will mean you get a telephone and it will be a managed service. So you will pay a rental per month for that service. That service allows all on-net calls to be free within the NHS."

A Local Gateway Service also provides an interface between a local telephone switch and the N3 Voice Core Services Central platform. This gateway enables telephone calls to be placed over the network for free. It also gives access to the N3 fixed to mobile gateway, which entitles trusts calling mobile phones a reduced tariff with mobile network operators.

Hill added that the gateway technology would also give the NHS the option to use their legacy systems rather than carry out a massive overhaul.

The trust's IP infrastructure will run across the Birmingham and Solihull Community of Interest Network (COIN) - a high bandwidth network linking up all of Birmingham and Solihull PCT sites, medical centres and doctors' surgeries - allowing information and data to be shared almost instantly between doctors and medical staff at more than 200 sites.

Kam Ryatt, the trust's associate director of ICT, said: "The N3 Hosted Voice Service acts as the icing on the cake. We will no longer need to worry about the day to day management of our telephony infrastructure - freeing up valuable resources that can be reinvested back into front line services."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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