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Switching to Gamma has been the best move we’ve ever made. We’re getting a better service that’s more resilient and more reliable and we’re saving money.

Jason Wells, Head of IT Infrastructure and Operations, Care UK

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Gamma answers the call for Care UK

Care UK is the nation’s largest independent provider of health and social care services, operating more than 300 facilities across the United Kingdom. The group’s primary care portfolio includes the NHS 111 helpline, GP services, urgent care, health in justice, and out-of-hours care. In secondary care it provides hospital services, clinical assessment and treatment, and diagnostic services.

In the residential care sector, Care UK provides a wide range of services to more than 7,000 older residents in more than 120 care homes and day clubs around the country. Here the focus is very much on enabling residents to get the most out of every day by giving them expert tailored care, by supporting them to stay active, and by creating comfortable home environments for them to live in.

Care UK works closely with the NHS to take healthcare services into communities, delivering the right type of care in the right way at the right time. Its treatment centres have ranked top in an independent national rating of the best performing hospitals for knee and hip replacement operations, and two of them are rated as ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The challenge

The most visible public service in the Care UK portfolio is undoubtedly the NHS 111 urgent care line. The company is the largest private sector supplier of NHS 111 cover, serving a big part of the UK including London.

The service tends to handle calls from people when they are at their most worried and most vulnerable. Practically every hour of every day NHS 111 takes at least one phone call from someone who is suffering a heart attack, or where a heart attack is in progress. For this reason NHS 111 is viewed as a blue-light service where reliability and dependability are everything. Finding the right provider for the 1,200 SIP channels upon which NHS 111 depends was critical.

At the same time, Care UK wanted to consolidate, modernise and future-proof the much larger and more diverse legacy telephony estate serving the rest of its operations across the UK. This comprised more than 2,000 lines, together with extensions, PBXs and infrastructure in hospitals, care homes and specialist treatment centres. Some of the telephony estate was ageing and very costly to maintain while for other parts, keeping track of multiple different system updates was becoming problematic and time consuming.

Adding to the challenge was a need for extra services like IVR, hunt groups and legislatively-mandated call recording on some lines. And given the nature of Care UK’s work, again resilience and reliability were key requirements. The scale of the challenge was increased still further by Care UK’s strategic decision to move away from on-premises telephony to an entirely hosted solution.

The solution

Having carefully researched the UK market, Care UK’s Head of IT Infrastructure and Operations Jason Wells and his colleagues soon concluded that Gamma was the country’s number one choice for SIP channels. Gamma also proved a very strong contender in hosted telephony with its industry-leading Horizon solution.

Gamma was chosen for the NHS 111 SIP deployment, providing 1,200 channels into Care UK’s dual, top-of-the-range Avaya switches. Since deployment Gamma has more than met the stringent service level agreements required by Care UK to deal promptly and reliably with more than one million calls a year.

“Gamma’s performance has been very good over the last two years and they’ve stuck rigidly to the SLAs,” says Wells. “Stability and uptime have been excellent and we have the capacity and flexibility we need to meet the very busiest periods.”

For the estate-wide consolidation and modernisation programme the Care UK team chose Gamma’s Horizon platform. This is now on track to ultimately provide some 3,500 extensions at Care UK facilities nationwide. Additional functionality is available per extension as required, and the system can readily scale up or down to meet changing business needs.

“We spent a lot of time evaluating the options and looking at different on-premise switches and different suppliers. The resilience we could get from Horizon was far better than anything we could get from not one but two on-premise solutions, one backing up the other,” says Wells.

“Switching to Gamma has been the best move we’ve ever made. We’re getting a better service that’s more resilient and more reliable and we’re saving money.”

The benefits

  • Dependable SIP provision for the critical NHS 111 service
  • Fully resilient, future proof solution
  • Ability to upscale and downscale at will
  • An estimated £673,000 cost saving over three years
  • Ease of dealing with Gamma’s helpdesk and support team
  • Simplified billing, easier to understand
  • Massively more flexible telephony network