Nick Earl

N3 – connecting the NHS.

By Nick Earl, chief executive of N3SP.

When BT first began to roll-out the national broadband network for the NHS, N3, in 2004, broadband was still in its relative infancy. There was a national network, NHSnet, but it was old, inflexible, expensive to run and slow.

N3 now provides the infrastructure without which the modern NHS couldn’t function properly. With more than 51,000 connections, it’s one of the largest private broadband networks in Europe, linking every GP, hospital and clinic in England and Scotland.

Without it, 39,000 hospital appointments couldn’t be booked electronically each day; 675,000 prescriptions couldn’t be sent; clinicians wouldn’t be able to view medical images or log on to their computers to access vital patient information and there would be no email access for more than 1.3 million NHS staff.

But N3 is much more than just a broadband network. It enables clinicians and healthcare professionals to deliver high-quality, cost effective care against a back drop of ever–increasing demand for healthcare. Offering a range of value-added services such as voice, videoconferencing, fast internet access and mobility solutions, it is helping create a world where patients receive better, more convenient treatment, diagnosis is faster, emergency services can respond quicker, hospital stays are shorter and discharges faster.

Trusts connected to N3 can also join together to form Community of Interest Networks (COINs), enabling them to network their services together more efficiently, converge voice, data and video communications and create bespoke solutions to meet their needs.

For example, people with heart disease in Kent are among thousands of NHS patients receiving faster diagnosis and treatment  thanks to Kent and Medway’s N3 COIN. The expertise and life-saving skills of London’s top cardiac specialists are just a few seconds away as angiogram images can be sent for analysis instantly, rather than being transferred on CD with the patient.

N3 has made a real and lasting difference to the NHS, transforming the way people work, increasing efficiency and saving the NHS an estimated £926 million. Most importantly, N3 is helping to improve patient care.

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