BT has announced that it is to offer NHS Trusts a national videoconferencing service over N3, the secure national broadband network it has built and is managing for the NHS. The network connects hospitals, medical centres and GPs in England and Scotland.
The new service will be managed by the company’s conferencing unit, BT Conferencing, with the aim of making it easier for Trusts. Up to now services have tended to be set up and managed on a local basis. The new service is expected to be more cost effective – the complexity of running a service has apparently been a barrier in some Trusts.
There’s clearly lots of opportunities to save travel costs and associated CO2 emissions in the NHS, for instance where multi-disciplinary teams of experts need to consult on a diagnosis. In fact the N3 web site says that the NHS Sustainable Development Unit has reported that NHS staff, patients and visitors travel 10.4 billion Km per year. If video conferencing was used for just 30 hours per week in each large trust it could deliver travel savings of £57m (additionally this could also save up to 2.3m working hours) per year and 7,200 tonnes of CO2.
The NHS has a carbon footprint of 18 million tonnes CO2 per year, up 40% since 1990, so it has a significant challenge ahead to comply with government carbon reduction targets and legislation (which includes the CRC). Green IT is clearly a way of doing that and the N3 web site points out that the network can help the NHS reduce its footprint in other ways, including:
• Reducing the N3 core Points of Presence from 57 to 10 and refreshing routers.
• If 25% of the staff that could access the network from home did so one day a week it would save 138,812 days of staff commuting travel per year, saving 5.4m Km of staff travel and 773 tonnes of CO2.
• Replacing all paper prescriptions with Electronic Transmission Prescriptions could save 4,197 tonnes of paper (equivalent to around 100,000 trees) and 14,100 tonnes of CO2 per year.