Nortel puts NHS call system in good shape

21 Nov 2007

The rollout of an IP telephony system throughout the National Health Service’s (NHS) contact centres in the UK has helped it reach Government targets for response times, performance and speed with which patient issues are addressed.

NHS Direct, England’s 24-hour telephone and e-health information service unified its 36 contact centres through IP telephony from Nortel, which has offices in Galway and Dublin. The IP telephony system was developed in Nortel’s R&D plant in Galway.

Utilising IP telephony has improved service and efficiency by uniting previously siloed NHS facilities to achieve cost savings and make better use of resources through centralisation, the NHS revealed.

The NHS handles up to six million calls per year and delivers e-health information services to the public via the internet.

NHS Direct created a single, virtual contact centre based on Nortel’s IP contact centre technology that brings together its 36 previously franchised and separate call centres. By migrating to IP telephony, the centres have been unified and standardised, eliminating queuing times through the ability to answer more calls in less time by immediately re-routing callers to available agents wherever they are in the country.

Furthermore, inter-site calls are made via the internet, so there are no costs to the business. NHS Direct can also make use of the existing, dedicated NHS data network to unite all NHS operations across England.

“We wanted to improve the service we were offering, while benefiting from the cost savings that centralisation should bring. We recognised that the only way to create the desired consistency and efficiencies was through virtualisation – joining up all call centres to create a united appearance – and the only way to do that was to deploy IP telephony across the country,” said Adrian Price, national ICT infrastructure manager at NHS Direct.

“Calls to NHS Direct are often about potentially life-threatening illnesses or injuries,” commented Murray Bain, director of information communications technology for NHS Direct.

“They need to be dealt with or passed on quickly. Nortel has given us the peace of mind that we are providing the best possible service to the public. Patients across the country can feel confident that, when they call us, their health concerns will be addressed rapidly.”

NHS Direct established a virtual IP call centre connecting 36 locations in England. Five communications hubs in Newcastle, Nottingham, Beckenham, Milton Keynes and Dudley use the Nortel Communication Server 1000 with Nortel Contact Center 6 to answer and route calls quickly around the country.

Advanced telephony functionality is provided through Nortel IP Phone 2004s and Nortel CallPilot. The implementation was completed in May 2007.

By Niall Byrne