LONDON – NHS Direct, England's 24-hour telephone and e-health information service, has unified its 36 contact centres through IP telephony from Nortel* [NYSE/TSX: NT]. Implementing an IP contact centre has improved service and efficiency by uniting previously siloed NHS facilities to achieve cost savings and make better use of resources through centralization.
Handling up to six million calls per year, NHS Direct delivers telephone and e-health information services to the public, via the telephone and the Internet, providing valuable advice to patients, often with potentially life-threatening illnesses or injuries. The new IP telephony contact centre, purchased from Nortel partner BT, is one of a number of changes that has contributed significantly to NHS Direct's consistent achievement of all the U.K. Department of Health targets for response times, performance and the speed with which patient issues are addressed.
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 standardized, 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, known as N3, to unite all NHS operations across England.
Adrian Price, National ICT Infrastructure manager at NHS Direct, says, "We wanted to improve the service we were offering, while benefiting from the cost savings that centralization should bring. We recognized that the only way to create the desired consistency and efficiencies was through virtualization - 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. Of all the IP telephony solutions on the market, Nortel provided the highest pedigree at the best price. Having worked with Nortel since NHS Direct formed ten years ago, we knew they could provide the solutions we needed as well as support the implementation with a focus on minimizing disruption and downtime."
Peter Kelly, president, Enterprise Networks, EMEA, continues: "NHS Direct has to be able to deal with the six million calls it receives each year so the network is not just business critical, it is life critical. Nortel's IP contact centre technology is simplifying business for NHS Direct as well as making it easier for patients to make use of the service through increased bandwidth and the resilience required to ensure the service is 'always on' 24/7.
"Calls to NHS Direct are often about potentially life-threatening illnesses or injuries," says Murray Bain, director of ICT 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 has chosen to establish a virtual, IP call centre connecting 36 locations. 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.