Hybrid network is faster, stronger and healthier for NHS Shetland

05 July 2016

NHS Shetland didn’t want its LAN to end up in A&E.

NHS Shetland didn’t want its LAN to end up in A&E.

The NHS on the Shetland Isles has upgraded its LAN to deliver greater resilience and enhanced network management processes. 

It is underpinned by a disaster recovery facility on a separate site at the Shetland Islands Council’s headquarters in Lerwick. The council is primarily responsible for fibre infrastructure on the island.

The project was carried out by Lancaster-based network specialist TNP (The Network People) which was appointed following a tender using the Scottish Procurement’s Network Enablement Services Framework. 

NHS Shetland IT team lead Michael Peterson said the aim was to address the vulnerability of the system which centred on the main server room in the hospital. 

“A total loss of power at the hospital or some other interruption could lead to the whole network shutting down,” said Peterson. “The network had evolved over a period of time, but was ‘unmanaged’ and could not be effectively monitored because of the nature of the hardware and the way it was configured.”

TNP was contracted to carry out a complete audit and analysis of all NHS Shetland’s existing network arrangements, and to design, develop and deliver a complete network solution. 

The company also reconfigured all of the switches across the estate, and provided full documentation to allow continuous monitoring and enable high visibility of any system failure.

NHS Shetland’s LAN is vital for allowing staff in remote locations to connect and exchange medical data, images and records stored on both local and national systems. 

That includes linking to the Trackcare system used for patient appointments and managing medical records, which is hosted on the Scottish mainland.

The network also offers patient and visitors guest internet access which is now accepted as a vital element in meeting the needs of patient and their families.

The critical nature of the system meant that much of TNP’s work had to be carried out in the evenings when the LAN was less busy. The company adds that where elements were temporarily taken out of service, it had to plan the work to ensure that they could be immediately reinstated in the event of a major incident being called.

TNP deployed a hybrid network that combined commercial masts, wireless and ADSL technology with dark fibre and satellite equipment. Its engineers utilised existing assets wherever possible, as well as installing a high-speed backbone tied into a fibre network at strategic points.

Shetland Islands Council’s Scottish-government-subsidised IT network came to an end in March 2014, and would have cost over £1 million to renew. 

TNP says it has delivered a cost effective alternative that provides faster and more reliable internet connections to 60 sites including schools, local authorities and community groups.  

The company claims it also saved “thousands of pounds” for the council by helping it to purchase further equipment and services direct from manufacturers.