Doncaster and Bassetlaw NHS Foundation Trust is working with US company Brocade on a new network infrastructure, ahead of a project to replace two of its core clinical systems and move towards paperless working.

The trust is currently running a Totalcare patient administration system from McKesson under a support contract negotiated by the Department of Health, which expired on 31 March this year.

It tendered for a replacement for both the Totalcare PAS and its iSoft (CSC) Emergency Department Information Solution two years ago.

The tender was won by Ascribe, which is due to implement its A&E system, Symphony, this month, and its CaMIS PAS in mid-summer. However, McKesson has agreed to extend the support for the trust until it is ready to deploy a new system.

Nigel Hall, the IT infrastructure manager at the trust, told EHI that the deployments were far from the limit of its ambitions.

“There was a requirement from the business that we should not only replace the PAS and A&E but remove a lot of paper records, not by using a single system, but by moving in a ‘best of breed’ direction and bringing things together through a portal,” he said. 

“It was my job to advise on how to do that. When the PAS and A&E requirement came up, people asked if we could just ‘wheel them in’ – and I said I was not convinced that our existing infrastructure would support that.

“Our infrastructure had received only sporadic investment and had not been looked at strategically. We had three server rooms, some of which were 25 years old, on our main site and our smaller site at Bassetlaw.”

Hall added that as a decision was made to replace it, the trust was looking for an infrastructure that would last five to ten years.

“So, as time was too short to use OJEU [the European tender process], we went through Softcat with a specification for what we wanted to achieve, broken down into racking switching, core switching, and wireless, he said.

“At the end of that, we chose Brocade as our solution.”

The company says the new infrastructure will be based on Brocade Ethernet Fabrics and VCS Fabric Technology, with 12 VDX 6740 switches installed on virtual machines across the two sites to support the PAS and other applications.

“It will give us a simplified environment,” Hall said.

“That means, from the support perspective, that things will be much easier. We can also be confident that it will give us the step-change we need to underpin further developments.”

Hall confirmed that it would also enable the trust to help staff move away from paper-based working, by giving them better access to its IT systems.

He said the trust would be giving staff a virtual desktop environment – based on VMware – so that, in A&E in the first instance, they would be able to call up their desktop from any machine into which they inserted a smartcard.

The trust is also looking into a mobile device management system from Airwatch, which was recently bought by VMware.

Brocade is based in California, and has round 4,000 employees worldwide.  A spokesperson for the company said the Doncaster and Bassetlaw deal represented a “landmark” in terms of working with an NHS trust.

“The approach the trust has taken, to begin by making sure it has the right networking infrastructure in place, is undoubtedly the right one,” Joy Gardham, regional director, EMEA West, added in a statement.