North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust has created a community of interest network to link its headquarters and ambulance stations.

The new infrastructure runs across the NHS’ broadband network, N3, and links 141 trust sites in Greater Manchester, Cumbria and Lancashire, and Cheshire and Merseyside.

The trust estimates the COIN will save it around £60,000 a year in data bills, while giving staff access to the same IT platforms, tools and applications.

Phill James, assistant director ICT modernisation, said the trust had deployed virtualisation technology within its data centres for the hosting of applications and created distributed file systems so that staff can access their files wherever they are within the trust.

It has also been able to regionalise business applications such as email. The network will carry some telephony traffic in the near future. And it will support new information tools for paramedics, such as drug management and operational applications.

James said planning for the new network started in January 2008 and roll-out took six months. “Communications are at the heart of any modern ambulance service and the N3 network supplied by BT will underpin our strategic decisions for the next five years,” he said.

“Staff benefits include a consistent service across the region, enabling access to all business applications from all trust locations. Patient benefits include the ability to roll-out regional applications and services to all staff, no matter which part of the region they operate within.”