Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Trust has become the first NHS Trust to implement a fully wireless-enabled network.

Staff at the trust will now be able to roam wirelessly and access critical information at the point of care, meeting patient needs faster and reducing errors.  Administration staff and management will also be able to access files and information in meetings from handheld devices.

The trust wanted a single secure and seamless network that covered both wired and wireless access, removing the need for two separate or parallel networks.  The wireless element was seen as vital due to the predicted increase in the use of mobile IP (Internet Protocol) devices in the health service.

"While patient care is always our top priority, ensuring that future developments can be adopted as quickly and easily as possible is also very important – both have been addressed with this solution," said Matt Broughton, Network Systems Manager, Basildon & Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Trust. 

"Being wireless enabled, intelligent applications such as searching for correct terminology, seeing patient files, and being able to pull up diagrams used in diagnosis, can all be carried out at the bedside – making everything much more efficient.  Not only is it useful technology for the doctors and nurses, but also administration staff, management and of course patients will also see definite benefits," said Broughton

The new wireless network will support up to 3,000 users across 27 wards at Basildon Hospital, and based on the Extreme Networks Summit 300 Unified Architecture.  The installation is claimed to provide a prototype to be emulated by other NHS Trusts across the country.

New projects such as integrated care records, electronic prescribing, real-time bed management and bedside results reporting, plus the likely deployment of IP telephony and wi-fi mobile telephony, meant that the Trust needed an infrastructure that would support future applications while keeping existing costs to a minimum.

"We’re very excited to be pioneering this new way of working in the NHS.  We had considered rolling out wireless before, but at the time there were too many security issues associated with the technology.  However, the Extreme switching system and Scalable Networks design have put these issues to rest, and we now have total confidence in the technology," said Broughton.

When the network is complete, 37 Extreme Summit 300 switches will be installed, supporting 10/100 switching plus Power over Ethernet and Secure Wireless.  37 Altitude 300 wireless access points will also be installed. 

“Wireless networking is one of the hot technologies of 2004, especially as security and integration issues have now been properly addressed,” said Simon Brown, Director of Scalable Networks.  "This pioneering installation will allow other NHS Trusts to see wireless in action, and will hopefully convince them to follow suit."