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£10m deal gives London hospitals new bedside manner

'Doctor, doctor, I feel like a guinea pig...' 'Don't worry, you're just part of a tech trial'
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

'Doctor, doctor, I feel like a guinea pig...' 'Don't worry, you're just part of a tech trial'

University College London Hospitals (UCLH) NHS Foundation Trust could be set to introduce on-demand entertainment as well as access to clinical applications through a new bedside system being introduced at the trust.

The system is part of a seven-year deal the trust has signed with Azzurri to overhaul its communications infrastructure.

The £10m deal, expected to save the trust £1.7m over its lifetime, will see Azzurri take over management of the trust's fixed-line and mobile communications across its six hospital sites, which will all be moved onto an IP infrastructure.

According to James Thomas, ICT director at UCLH, the trust decided to embark on the deal to standardise the infrastructure across the hospitals, which range from brand new PFIs to 100-year-old buildings.

"What goes with that is that we inherited telephone exchanges, some of which are 20 years plus old right the way through to brand new IP ones, so I had a tremendous diversity and mixture in the estate. We were trying to operate as one unified trust with a completely non-unified legacy of telecoms infrastructure," he told silicon.com.

The migration to the all-IP infrastructure is expected to take around 18 months.

The deal will give the trust better disaster recovery capabilities for its switchboard, regular tech refreshes and more predictable communications costs.

"Stability of cost is a real benefit," Thomas said. "The cost model of the contract gives you a very clear prediction of cost with little volatility and movement over the seven years [the contract lasts]. Obviously, my finance director is very keen to have that predictability of cost."

The Azzurri deal also sees the introduction of a new bedside entertainment system which could provide internet access and on demand films for patients but also one day clinical applications.

"It's absolutely our intention - we're currently trialling that at the moment. When the doctor or nurse comes to the bedside, at the moment we have mobile clinical assistant devices - laptop type things. This gives us an alternative device which is at the bedside, at the point of care, and a doctor can look up results of investigations, diagnostics or the current course of treatment and what's the next step."

The applications are being piloted but won't be used at the bedside just yet. Should they prove successful, the apps could be rolled out to some hospitals within the year.

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