VoIP pilot to cut NHS phone bills

BT claims NHS trusts will make substantial savings on comms by converging voice and data over its N3 broadband network

Connecting their individual voice networks to the NHS N3 network could help hospital trusts across the UK cut their phone bills.

The N3 broadband backbone is part of the £12.4bn NHS IT modernisation programme and is key to the delivery of new services, such as electronic prescriptions and the Picture Archiving and Communications digital X-ray system.

The N3 network links surgeries, hospitals, community pharmacies and other NHS sites and has recently been updated to carry phone calls using VoIP technology.

BT — which is running the £530m N3 project — claims NHS organisations will make substantial savings on communications by converging voice and data over a single network.

London trusts are being offered free connections to the N3 Local Gateway Service — allowing them to call each other for free — as part of a pilot and will also get reduced tariff mobile calls through a partnership with mobile network operator O2.

Currently 21 trusts in London have joined the pilot, with another 26 due to join up and several more expected to take part before the funding expires at the end of the year.

The director of ICT at the North West London Hospitals NHS Trust, Rick Juniper, said converging its voice and data over one single network has provided a simple and efficient way to manage its communications needs.

The upgrade of the N3 broadband network in July of this year included the Local Gateway Service for NHS sites to connect their voice services into the main N3 network and call other sites free of charge.