Ambulance trusts to join police forces' network...O2 Airwave has won a £390m contract to provide a new national digital radio and communications system for the UK ambulance service.
The contract is part of the government plans formulated in the aftermath of the US terrorist attacks in 2001 to create a single digital communications network for emergency services in the event of a disaster.
The rollout of a £2.9bn Airwave network for police forces in England, Scotland and Wales was completed on time by O2 earlier this year but the procurement of a digital communications network for the fire service has been delayed because of an ongoing row about the centralisation of fire service control rooms.
The 13-year Airwave contract with the Department of Health (DoH) will see O2 replace the existing analogue radio systems currently used by ambulance trusts. Ambulance services in Hereford, Worcester and Merseyside have already moved onto Airwave.
The plan is for ambulance trusts to start taking delivery of the new radio systems from the middle of 2006 and for the full rollout to be completed by the end of 2008.
Health minister Lord Warner said in a statement: "The ambulance service has made excellent improvements in patient care over the last few years. It is essential that ambulance crews have the best equipment to back them up. This new digital system will provide a more reliable service and will help bring further improvements to patient care."
The DoH has also hit back at reports that London ambulance crews were hampered in rescue efforts after the 7th July bombings because of the lack of a digital radio system. A spokesman told silicon.com no communication problems were reported.