GP surgeries have the opportunity to make substantial savings using technology that allows conversation and data transfer over the same internet network.
"N3 Hosted voice" is to first target small-to-medium sized users, such as GP surgeries, with larger users to follow.
Until now, N3 - the current internet network underpinning the National Programme for IT in the NHS - has been largely used to speed up the transmission of clinical data.
Now "Connecting for Health", the Department of Health agency in charge of NHS computer systems, has donated funds to make it possible to talk over the network as well.
The N3 Local Gateway Service will allow GP surgeries to connect their voice networks to N3 and get free calls to other users of the new voice service.
Although there is an initial set-up fee and an ongoing rental charge, it is hoped that the nationally negotiated rates for fixed-to-mobile calls will help GP surgeries to make substantial savings.
BT are to host the technology, manage the entire infrastructure and billing process and provide the phone handsets.
<http://www.connectingforhealth.nhs.uk/> Connecting For Health
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