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NHS Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Hospitals Foundation Trust:
Clinical telephone service transformation
The Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (the Trust) serves some 330,000 residents, as well as the 12 million holidaymakers who visit the region every year. The Trust includes Blackpool Victoria Hospital, two community hospitals, three elderly rehabilitation hospitals, two specialist units (Blenheim House Child Development Centre and the National Artificial Eye Service), and one of the four tertiary cardiac specialist centres in the North West of England. It employs 4,000 people, and offers 830 beds. The Trust deals with more than 56,000 inpatients, 250,000 outpatients, and 91,000 accident and emergency cases every year.
Priding itself on being an early adopter of new technology, in 1999 the Trust became one of the first NHS Trusts in England to trial IP telephony between its major sites using a BT-provided network. The next step was to extend IP telephony to the desktop. BT implemented a central Cisco Unified Communications Manager-based platform to replace multiple standalone legacy telephone systems, serving around 40 clinical and medical centres. This greatly simplified administration and allowed inter-departmental calls to be made across the core network to reduce costs.
Fred Wills, IT Communications Manager at the Trust, says: “We wanted to standardise all of our clinics and remote sites on an IP-based system, but retain the traditional switchboard serving the community hospitals and Blackpool Victoria Hospital, moving us towards a truly converged architecture.” This hybrid methodology served the Trust well, until the legacy switchboard reached full capacity. A different approach was then needed.
The Trust chose BT to enhance and extend the existing Cisco Unified Communications Manager platform to provide greater capacity, enabling it to replace the old switchboard. However, that meant changes would need to be made to the DDI (direct dialling in) exchange lines serving the Trust.
The Trust had a number of different service providers for its calls and lines at the time. Fred Wills says: “This already caused problems such as disparate number ranges, a lot of separate bills to deal with, and limited resilience at individual sites. We needed a system that would integrate all of our existing number ranges, provide a platform to migrate to a standardised number range and to make the transition to a full IP telephony platform seamless to the end user. We turned to BT for assistance.”
The Trust invited BT to unify its telephone service and it soon became apparent that BT One Cloud hosted voice was the best solution. This offered the best blend of elegance and simplicity, coupled with attractive commercial terms. Importantly, it allowed the Trust to standardise both incoming and outgoing call delivery with improved network resilience at a lower and more predictable cost.
Interfacing with both traditional and IP-based telephony, One Cloud allows an organisation to seamlessly converge its voice services at its own pace and business requirements in order to maximise return on investment from existing assets. As a fully managed service One Cloud features advanced service levels together with comprehensive management reporting enabling better decision-making. It also makes use of network intelligence to offer new features such as call routing based on customer-specified parameters.
As part of the project the Trust decided that it would require a standardised numbering schema to improve its public face. The new DDI numbers allocated by Ofcom and supplied by BT will also enable the transition to a five-digit internal numbering plan as and when the Trust decides to implement.
To simplify the change BT helped design a numbering plan that would allow individual internal extensions to retain the same last four digits. Existing DDI numbers were matched to this new range and both old and new numbers were ported onto the One Cloud hosted voice platform, unifying delivery of all number ranges to the Trust. In order to minimise disruption and allow a controlled and seamless migration, the old and new DDI ranges can run in parallel over the One Cloud platform, both reaching the same destination.
Finally, BT installed an all-new Cisco-based wired and wireless local area network, capable of supporting full-scale IP telephony, against a challenging time frame. The wireless network comprises of approximately 1000 access points, carefully sited to maximise network coverage across the hospital campus.
BT now provides almost all telephone services for the Trust. This simplifies support and administration, delivers economies of scale, and improves visibility of total costs. Fred Wills confirms: “Using BT One Cloud hosted voice services means that not only have we reduced our calls and lines expenditure, but we have implemented a super resilient voice system and have the flexibility to change our numbering plan whenever we want.”
The all-new extended infrastructure supports a total of around 5,000 extensions across the primary campus sites, and the 40-plus smaller sites in the region. Users have noticed a difference. Conventional phones have been replaced with modern IP phones, with advanced features to aid productivity. The wireless network is already paying dividends by enabling people to work more flexibly – by logging on to services from wherever they may be – to improve efficiency and productivity. It is also enabling the Trust to introduce new technology, such as RFID for asset tracking.
Meanwhile, the implementation of the One Cloud system considerably aided the transition from old-world to new-world telephony with minimum interruption to day-to-day activities. Fred Wills sums up: “It was a challenging project but the BT One Cloud deployment was extremely well done. We now have a flexible and more resilient voice services platform that will support the Trust for the foreseeable future.”
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