Belfast Health and Social Care Trust has made IT and communications company BT its sole supplier of voice and data communications in a five-year deal worth up to EUR 25 million.
Under the contract, BT will provide around 17,000 users with innovative communications technology and an infrastructure that will support the re-provisioning of healthcare across Northern Ireland.
The recently published Compton Review of Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland, 'Transforming Your Care', outlined the need to push care into the community, a strategy that will require the effective use of communications infrastructure to underpin it. BT's ability to deliver on this vision and also drive significant cost efficiencies were key to it winning the contract.
Peter Russell, Head of BT's Public Sector and Major Accounts in Northern Ireland, said: "BT has been working with the National Health Service in the UK for many years, building a long-term relationship based on understanding the challenges and objectives around healthcare. We are delighted to have the opportunity to work in partnership with the Belfast Trust, bringing the very latest communications technologies to bear that will over time help transform the way healthcare is provided in Northern Ireland.
Paul Duffy, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, said: "We chose BT to develop our next generation of voice and data communications services that will greatly enhance healthcare services to our 340,000 patients and clients. We look forward to working with BT on delivering real benefits to staff and patients, and facilitating new ways of communication and teamwork."
BT won the tender with a two-phased strategy that will deliver internet protocol telephony and a suite of unified communication and collaboration capabilities within 18 months.
As part of the plan, Microsoft Lync is being rolled out to 10,000 users, a suite of tools that will transform the way healthcare workers communicate and share information through the use of voice, video, instant messaging and presence technology.
In the first phase, BT will assume its role as single supplier, consolidating voice and data services and ensuring a consistent Quality of Service across all of the Trust.
Upgrading a wireless infrastructure is also a priority, bringing radio and paging services on to an IP network.
In another project, BT will upgrade the Trust network with partner Novosco, to ensure appropriate bandwidth is available to all of the Trust's 110 sites.
In the longer-term there are plans to extend a medical asset tracking application over the wireless network, and even the possibility of making unified communications available across the Trust and potentially to patients in their home, connecting them to their carers more quickly and efficiently.
BT has offices across Northern Ireland, including Belfast, Londonderry, and Enniskillen and directly employs a total of 2,130 people, with a further 366 employed as contractors.
There are more than 500 IT specialists in BT's networked IT services team across the island of Ireland.
The company continues to significantly invest in its network and IT infrastructure both in the North and South of Ireland, and provides a full range of communications and IT services to the small to medium enterprise, corporate, multi-national and government sectors.