Herefordshire Council ditches BT to create true public sector network

By Derek du Preez
16 Mar 2011 View Comments
Nurses at NHS hospital

Herefordshire Council is the first local authority in England to expand its community-wide public sector network (PSN) to include 20 NHS sites, and in the process has switched service provider to save £130,000 a year.

Although much of the network is now being managed in-house, the council is relying on Updata to provide and manage the physical circuits linking end sites to eight exchanges.

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The network previously included just the community schools and local council corporate sites, but it is being extended to incorporate hospitals, clinics and corporate NHS sites. It has gone from 6,000 to 8,000 users.

Siemens had previously been managing the circuits for the school and council sites before Updata came on board.

"The network includes everything from IP telephony, files, folders, fast application access, email, anti-virus, web filtering, and in the future, unified communications and videoconferencing," said Alicia Bolger, ICT operations manager at Herefordshire Council and NHS Herefordshire.

"There was a deep relationship between Herefordshire Council and the NHS, and consequently we decided to merge the two IT teams so as to manage the network and monitor functions in-house," she added.

"The key driver for us is the mobility it allows our staff. So any of our users can go to any site and log into the service, whereas previously they would have to go to their main site or go home."

"We were using BT originally to deal with the NHS circuits, and this was costing us £170,000 per annum," said Bolger.

"But by bringing the NHS sites into the PSN, even though this cost us £80,000 to do, we will save £130,000 a year as a result," she added.

The bodies share information with the NHS on patients, but Bolger highlights that this is only done when security measures allow it.

"We may share case load information, or information on clinical systems that hold patient data, but we will only do this when there is a legitimate reason to do so," said Bolger.

"Because of data protection and security, when this is done it has to be signed off by each of the individual managers involved."

Herefordshire Council also plans to extend its network even further because of its success so far.

"We are certainly considering incorporating other public sector bodies, such as GP practices," said Bolger.

"Also, if David Cameron's ‘Big Society' idea takes off and we see a lot of small business partners coming into play, it would be useful for them to have access to the network too," she added.

"We are currently running a cost-benefit analysis on this and we are also looking at architecture designs."

The project is expected to be completed within the next few weeks.

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