Stone Group - Providing digital transformation solutions to organisations across the UK.

Background

Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust is the largest provider of healthcare in Dorset. It is responsible for all mental health services in addition to many physical health services, serving a population of 750,000 in Dorset, as well as several thousand in Hampshire. A staff of around 5,000 provide care for over 300 sites – these can be anything from village halls to one of the 12 community hospitals, providing a myriad of services that include audiology, podiatry, district nursing, health visitors and community oncology.

“A key tenet of the NHS digital strategy is based on self-care and prevention – much of the information necessary to do this is online…”

The Situation

A national mandate from NHS England means that all NHS Trusts have to offer guest Wi-Fi across the sites where clinical services are provided.  In Dorset, the Trust only had active guest Wi-Fi at 20 of the 48 sites where it needed to provide the service, and only had a relatively small window of opportunity to comply with the mandate.

Infrastructure Project Manager, Andrew Harrison was tasked with ensuring the Trust met its obligations.  “Providing guest Wi-Fi is really important for our service users,” he said.

“A key tenet of the NHS digital strategy is based on self-care and prevention – much of the information necessary to do this is online. It’s vitally important therefore, that service users have access to all kinds of information while they are with us – whether that is for a few hours or a few days.”

‘In addition, we appreciate that waiting in a clinic or being an in-patient can be tedious, and so having Wi-Fi access allows people to keep in touch with their friends and family.  We’ve also found that a popular use for our Wi-Fi is for entertainment such as watching Netflix and iPlayer.”

The Trust tendered the work which involved extending the Meraki installation it was currently using in 20 sites to be expanded to a further 27 clinical sites across the Trust’s extensive estate. “The Meraki equipment currently in place had been installed on a piecemeal basis by our own internal team,” explained Andrew.  “However, this was a major project and we didn’t have the time to do it in-house.”

Stone won the competitive tendering process and had three months to roll out the Wi-Fi across the Trust’s various clinics and hospitals. Andrew said: “Although the Trust had worked with Stone before in the provision of PCs, laptops and monitors, I personally had no experience of them and so was not sure what to expect in terms of service or expertise.”

The Solution

Stone’s first step was to look at what was already in place to confirm it would be feasible for a wider roll out.  This involved back-office design and configuration.  Although this was an extensive roll-out, Andrew was pleased that this only took a short time.  “The dedicated Stone team spent some time with our networking team but this was not intrusive or time consuming.  Once they had the information they needed, they were able to construct a solution with minimal input from us.”

The project manager at Stone was Warren Vowles who met with Andrew and the senior IT team to explain how the installation would be managed and what to expect.  “Warren was very thorough and so we only had to meet in person once,” said Andrew. “Of course, we did talk a lot on the phone and via email and he was always available if I had a specific query or question.”

The Trust have an IT team of around 50 people, but even so, the work would not have been feasible for them given the time scale. Instead, the Stone installation team worked very closely with the Trust’s networking team to exchange information and arrange all the necessary access for Stone, such as having the Trust’s IT team accompany them to site on the first day of each site installation.

A challenge for the project was the quick turnaround necessary, and with that in mind, the installation had a very rapid pilot which was carried out on just two sites in one day.  Once both Warren and Andrew confirmed and verified that everything was working as it should – the roll out properly commenced.

The solution purchased by the Trust was the Cisco Meraki MR33, a quad-radio, cloud-managed 2×2:2 802.11ac Wave 2 access point that provides performance, enterprise-grade security and simplified management.  It’s a next generation cloud management system that’s ideal for hospitals, as it offers full-time RF environment scanning and integrated Bluetooth technology to ensure flexibility, reliability and simplicity.

Security was important to the Trust, who wanted to ensure  that the guest network was not compromised by the users.  Therefore, they also purchased complementing Cisco Meraki MX64 security appliances, a purpose-built hardware platform for cloud management. This would further strengthen and protect the Trusts networking, by providing features such as seven-layer application traffic shaping, content filtering, antivirus/antiphishing and site to site VPN.

Due to limited storage space, the Trust was concerned about stockholding such a vast amount of kit, which included 220 access points and 20 firewalls, and without the wrap around offerings from Stone, they would have had to arrange the logistics of getting kit to specific sites on specific days.

“Stone resolved the storage issue by sorting out a bonded store that was pre-allocated to the Trust,” said Andrew.  “This meant we didn’t have to worry about security or delivery to site which would have taken up a good deal of our limited resources.”

Stone is a trusted partner with Cisco , specialising in the delivery and support of Cisco Meraki solutions. The long-standing partnership with Cisco Meraki, means Stone have extensive first-hand access to expertise, training and resources from Cisco Meraki themselves, so they can offer reliable advice and guidance to their customers, and ensure effective knowledge transfer.

In addition, their in-house team of specialists are accredited to the highest recognised level with Cisco Meraki and are one of few organisations to hold the “Cisco Meraki Master” accreditation reserved for their most strategic partners. This allows them to deploy solutions that offer the best value and deliver projects tailormade to the demands of the organisation.

The partner status meant that they were able to purchase all the necessary licences for the Trust in the most effective way.  “Licensing can be a major headache because it is so complicated,” said Andrew.  “As a Meraki partner, Stone was able to make life so much easier for us.”

The installations had to be carried out during the day, and so, Stone had to ensure their work didn’t disrupt the clinical demands of the Trust.  They also had to be mindful of the more stringent requirements necessary when working in the mental health units, and in some buildings, they had to ensure the work did not impact on their listed building status.

“For the most part, our team and the Stone team worked really well to ensure it was business as usual,” said Andrew. “Where there were any small issues, with access for example, the Stone team were flexible enough to work around them.”

Stone commenced work with the Trust on 28th January and had to complete the installation on 31 March – in fact, they completed the work by the end of February.  “We set Stone an ambitious timescale and were extremely pleased that this was met” said Andrew.  “Obviously, this was very well received by the sponsors, NHS Digital.”

“For the most part, our team and the Stone team worked really well to ensure it was business as usual,” said Andrew. “Where there were any small issues, with access for example, the Stone team were flexible enough to work around them.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We set Stone an ambitious timescale and were extremely pleased that this was met”

Now

The Trust is delighted to be able to offer service users fast, efficient and secure Wi-Fi at all of its clinical sites.  “The new system is separated from our main Trust network and now each site has its own independent internet link which is cloud managed, making it very flexible,” Andrew explained.

While the main users of the network are guest users, a by-product of the installation is that staff can also use their own devices if they need online access for information that could be restricted by the Trust’s firewall. Visiting staff from other organisations can also use the service to get online quickly and easily.

“The whole project was quick and efficient,” said Andrew.  “Having never worked with Stone before, I was very impressed with their professionalism throughout the installation.”

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