The Department of Health will add a further two years to its NHS National Network contract with BT, it has been revealed.
A "letter of intent" to extend the present agreement has been issued, according to a spokesperson for the department.
The first seven-year N3 contract was given to BT in 2004, playing a vital role in England's NHS National Programme for IT. It was set to run out in 2011.
BT is the main contractor in the £530m deal, while subcontractors include Nortel, Cisco and NTL.
N3 is a combination of broadband connections and network services which connects all NHS sites. It is one of the biggest virtual private networks in Europe, with more than 40,000 connections.
A total of 46 trusts have been connected to N3 voice services, which allows them to communicate free of charge. In June, a videoconferencing service was also added.
N3 is also available in Scotland, provided by BT using Cisco's united communications platform. Meanwhile Wales opted to use a separate network.
The Department of Health also said it is weighing up replacements for N3 in future. "There is dialogue looking at further options," according to a spokesperson.
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