Belfast Telegraph

Helping to transform communication in the health sector


Richard Eccles, Account Director, Health Sector at BT Business in Northern Ireland

An ageing telephony infrastructure is the Achilles heel for many large organisations. The thought of transforming a system which lies at the heart of a critical 24/7 organisation is too much to bear for some, encumbered as it is with thoughts of service disruption.

But it needn't be.

The advancement of technology in telephony and IT combined with the expertise, attention to service and partnership which BT can offer means the day-to-day experience of users won't be interrupted.

For proof, just ask the Southern Health and Social Care Trust (SHSCT).

It provides health and social care services for three council areas of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Mid Ulster District Council, a remit which includes 14,500 staff.

Their old telephony system consisted of 140 separate premises and 70 legacy telephony platforms from a mix of suppliers, John Mitchell, the Telecoms Manager for SHSCT, explained.

The system needed modernised and BT were the winning bid following a rigorous Public Procurement competition. Having recently delivered similar projects for Belfast and the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust, BT were selected under their Voice & Data Communication Partnership (VDCP) agreement.

"What we had wasn't fit to meet the future telecoms demands of the trust, so we entered into a partnership with BT with a view to centralising the process," he said. "That was quite a task as it meant rolling out a single managed service to 7,000 users."

Following early discussions with the organisation, Richard Eccles, Health Sector Account Director at BT Business in Northern Ireland, quickly realised that a unique system was needed.

"This project is a great example of how transformation in partnership really works," Richard said. "BT are different to other suppliers in that we sit down with customers, work through their needs and help them design a product which addresses those specific issues."

"In today's technically advanced Health Care industry a world class communications infrastructure is vital to ensure the right form of communication reaches the right place at the right time. Never has there been such a high demand for our health service as today and being able to work smarter with better communications is critical to meeting this demand."

From the off it was clear the system itself would bring benefits to the Trust's operations.

The new VOIP (voice over internet protocol) telephones operate from a centrally managed, high availability system, offering the ability for all trust employees to work in a completely different manner. The ability of staff to have their calls delivered to any device regardless of location is just one simple feature, while more advanced features include Contact Centre and Call Recording services.

Calls can be recorded to provide more governance for triage and, future possibilities include home working out-of-hours GPs using the phone system regardless of their location - in general, the Trust's employees are better connected.

It is also clear that BT's ability to operate swiftly and efficiently is a big plus for an organisation which wants minimal disruption. The VDCP service arrangements are backed up by guaranteed service levels and guaranteed fix times unlike any other similar contract.

"BT can scale up quickly on a project like this when needed and have a dedicated team working on a ward to get the job done in as quick a time as possible", Richard said. "No other provider can do that."

Another huge plus is the service agreement with a local onsite telecoms helpdesk, manned by BT engineers, to deal with any issues as quickly as possible.

"A centralised support team provided by BT offers a one-stop shop for all our needs," John said, adding that his experience of working with the communications company on the project has been hugely positive.

"The ongoing transformation of our telephony infrastructure at SHSCT has been the result of a strong and successful partnership with BT. They have brought innovation with the right products and the right skills when we needed them. Their extremely helpful and hands on approach has seen the project operate smoothly and efficiently and we're delighted with the results to date and we look forward to the completion of the project."

  • For further information and to contact BT Business in Northern Ireland please email

Belfast Telegraph