North East London (NEL) Commissioning Support Unit provides centralised buying and support of Information Technology equipment and services for a number of clinical delivery and administrative units of the National Health Service across the east of England and part of the capital.
NEL’s staff includes a 30-plus team of mobile engineers who provide on-site troubleshooting and maintenance. They are backed by a further 40 IT experts who are based at service centres in Essex and Norfolk and who provide remote support for their in-field colleagues, and for end-users – thousands of front-line health workers and administrative support staff who together deliver primary care to patients at GP surgeries, health centres and acute specialist units across the region. NEL has recently begun branching out to sell its expertise to local councils.
The 2013 revision of health care across England saw the end of autonomous buying with the creation of Commissioning Support Units, each responsible for centrally sourcing services on behalf of health care providers in a designated geographical region of England.
A key goal of the new arrangement was economies of scale.
When it came to rationalising regional telecommunications, the newly created NEL was confronted with a variety of legacy systems and providers, more costly than it needed to be and certainly
less flexible and less integrated. ISDN circuits provided by Daisy Group were costing much more than alternative solutions, copper circuits subsequently added to increase capacity were unable to quickly accommodate on-the-ground changes.
Head of infrastructure solutions James Davis and his colleagues identified two contending providers. Gamma SIP Trunking proved to be the most competitively priced of the two, and offered the advantage of allowing NEL to independently select whatever voice platform it wished – in NEL’s case a CISCO Unified Communications Manager.
In a phased rollout – completed within less than two months of the order being placed – we replaced the ISDN connections with two Ethernet load balanced connections back to two different Gamma data centres, giving 300 SIP connections. We worked with NEL to ensure that the porting of some 3,000 DDI numbers was seamless. NEL also chose to take our Inbound service, giving it direct and instant control over incoming call routing.
Now the voice system is being expanded with the addition of a further 150 SIP connections to accommodate voice services for new users of the NEL voice service in Suffolk. Meanwhile our SIP trunking continues to deliver paybacks for NEL, not just in terms of cost savings which Davis says are ‘very significant’, but also in reliability and the quality of the relationship between supplier and customer.