NHS Norfolk and Community Health and Care have implemented a new high speed network from Virgin Media Business.

The Virgin Media Business Ethernet Virtual Private Network, which consists of 12 ethernet sockets, will allow the primary care trust and its provider arm to support remote and mobile working to their geographically dispersed populations.

John Midgley, assistant director of strategic and operational IT, told E-Health Insider: “We previously occupied an old ex-mental hospital.

"When we had to leave that site, we had to shut our computer room down and open it somewhere else. So we were in some ways shoehorned down the BT N3 route.

“When we opened our new computer room, we soon realised that the organisational need behind BT N3 had evaporated – and so went out to market.”

The trust was also driven to implement the network due to deployment of TPP’s SystmOne, which has been rolled out across 90% of the county.

“The new network allows staff to access patient information before they leave the home so that they are prepared when they see the patient. It also provides connections between the staff, sites and headquarters,” Midgley added.

The trust has around 30 Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Lines (ADSLs) in place. However, it said that although they were meant to provide up to 8MG of capacity, they were often providing only 1MG or 2MG; which was not sufficient for a health centre.

Although the trust will continue to invest in its Community of Interest Network (COIN) for the next two years, it said it needed to implement a ‘mixed economy’. 

It also said the network from Virgin Media would be more far reaching, less money, more responsive, and provide good levels of service and quality.

Midgley added: “The business case spoke for itself in allowing us to be modern and fit for purpose. The jump from ADSL to ethernet circuit is really the only jump we could make, even though it’s expensive and an ongoing commitment.

“If we could, we’d put in high speed circuits everywhere – but we simply can’t in this [financial] climate.”

The trust is in the early stages of implementation and is currently ‘taking stock’ of its IT systems, following the IT team’s transfer from the commissioning body to the provider arm.

“The transfer will give IT higher priority on the agenda, so we can look at how we can further improve connectivity for users," Midgley said. "This has really been just an intermediate step.”

David Astley, head of health and emergency services, Virgin Media Business, said: “The NHS is transforming itself to benefit patients and meet efficiency targets. 

"Technology is at the heart of this, particularly at a local level, where every trust’s needs are different. NHS Norfolk is a prime example of how innovation and efficient go hand in hand with improved care of patients.”