University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust
A cutting-edge communications network helps UHNM to transform their services
Royal Stoke University Hospital is one of the largest hospitals in the UK; each year it provides over 700,000 people with emergency treatment, planned operations and general medical care. In 2003, the hospital was successful in its bid for a £370 million Private Finance Initiative (PFI) investment to refurbish existing facilities and build new facilities with 2014 marking the completion of the construction.
The PFI project is part of a larger programme to modernise health services in Staffordshire which, as well as major building works, includes a transformation in the use of technology.
As part of the PFI programme, Nasstar was selected to provide the foundation for new capabilities in the form of managed communications services. Working in partnership with both the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM) and its PFI partners, the goal was to create new, better, faster and more cost-effective ways of doing things.
In the world of critical healthcare, a high-performance network can be vital to facilitating improvements in patient outcomes. We make sure to focus our attention on transforming technology at all levels, allowing staff to deliver the best care possible.
Key to this is the upgrade of the Wi-Fi infrastructure that enables more services to be delivered at the bedside. This has involved upgrading all the existing Wi-Fi Access Points with new models to provide up to a 50-fold increase in available Wi-Fi bandwidth as well as adding 350 new Access Points to increase wireless coverage.
The high bandwidth network has also made it possible to view X-rays, MRI scans and CT scans at the bedside. Where X-rays historically took hours to produce, they are now instantly and securely stored electronically, delivering a leap forward in efficiency. Picture Archiving Services (PACS) offering instant digital images, will be viewable anywhere on the Trust network.
The enhanced coverage will support the rollout of Wi-Fi access for patients and guests. This access has the potential to allow more self-service and efficiency with form filling and admissions procedures. Quick, efficient and secure e-prescribing from the bedside is also now possible.
Better coverage also opens the door to technologies such as Radio Frequency Identity tags (RFID) which can be attached to equipment and their location identified through the Wi-Fi network. This means that vital equipment such as IV pumps, wheelchairs or bariatric beds can be quickly located and used. The use of RFID tags also has a role in patient tagging and can ultimately make step changes in the speed with which patients are treated.
Nasstar designed and implemented a new managed communications network for the City General and Haywood Hospital sites.
Our support for UHNM includes a four-person team based permanently onsite that manages and monitors the existing data, voice network and full change control. The on-site team is supported by our remote Network Operations Centre which provides 24/7 cover for fault finding and fixing.
As new buildings and systems have become operational and have been brought onto the network, our managed services ensure that the infrastructure continues to operate at peak performance. Nasstar also helps with the process of bringing old and refurbished buildings onto the network and carefully migrating from legacy systems.
We are also constantly looking to the future and exploring ways of evolving the network and services to reduce costs and improve outcomes for patients. Today we provide network services for several thousand UHNM users, which involves hundreds of network devices.
As part of our process of continuous review, we have also implemented new technology in the network to cope with an inevitable increase in demand and to improve resilience and availability of the vital services that rely on network infrastructure, ensuring it has the scale for further expansion.
To help all staff communicate better, new capabilities are also being introduced to enable instant messages to be exchanged and to allow staff to see the availability of the person they are trying to contact. A high bandwidth, secure, communications infrastructure also opens the possibility of the use of video conferencing which can be used as an alternative to face-to-face consultations.
Working partnerships such as this help deliver improvements for the NHS, knowing that it is always deriving maximum value for money. Our services are subject to regular benchmarking to provide proof that they are best in class, best practice, and the best the NHS in the North Midlands can do for its patient community.
At the Trust, we treat our working relationships as true partnerships and not just as contractually defined arrangements. Everything about the relationship between the Trust and Nasstar is very positive, from their appreciation of our ongoing needs and long-term vision to the speed with which they resolve issues as they arise, which is infrequently.