BT Priority Fault Repair Service – Termination from April 2010

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11th February 2010
To: PCT Chief Executives
Cc: SHA Telecoms Leads for cascade
BMA Joint GP IT Committee
Chris Wilber, Director of Infrastructure, DH Informatics Directorate
Gordon Smith, BT


Dear Colleague,


BT Priority Fault Repair Service – Termination from April 2010


You may be aware that since 1999, NHS Connecting for Health and our predecessor
organisations have held a national agreement with BT to provide Priority Fault Repair
Services (PRFS) for nominated telephone lines used by Primary Care organisations. I am
currently responsible for the national agreement within NHS Connecting for Health.
Under the BT PFRS, in the event of a fault occurring on these telephone lines, BT’s
resolution efforts are prioritised to rectify any fault on that line (on a reasonable endeavours
basis) with the intent of restoring service sooner than might otherwise be the case for a
non-prioritised line.


Your organisation may, or may not, knowingly make use of PFRS: The national agreement
with BT that provides this service has been held centrally for a number of years. It is
therefore possible that a number of your sites (including GP practices, as well as GP
private residences) have been covered by this service without PCT staff necessarily being
aware.


I have been advised by BT that they will discontinue the PRFS service with effect from 1st
April 2010 for all except 999 Emergency Services.
This change may have implications for your organisation and General Practice staff
depending on:
• the level of use your organisation makes of BT-provided phone lines (note, only
services contracted directly with BT are affected by this change)
• the reliability of your telephony and data communications infrastructure in general
• any alternative arrangements you have in place for business continuity across your
organisation including mobile communications for voice and data access in the
event of faults occurring with BT provided telephone lines.
NHS Connecting for Health is supporting the NHS to deliver the National Programme for Information Technology
I am advised by BT that they will shortly be writing to each individual site currently
registered with the BT PFRS service to inform them of the change. It is therefore possible
that individual sites will contact your staff responsible for telephony service provision,
asking for advice on this matter.
Clearly, all advice given will be in the context of the PCTs local strategy for communications
services, which will be unique to each PCT. However, it may be helpful if I provide the
following context to assist discussions:
• The BT PFRS service is a “consumer” product. BT is at liberty to terminate such
services with reasonable notice in accordance with their regulatory framework.
Regulation of such services is performed by OFCOM (Office of Communications).
• Since the Priority Fault Repair Service was originally provided, the general reliability
of telephony services has improved significantly, resulting in a general reduction in
the number of faults and thus a general reduction in the value/benefit of PFRS as a
service.
• Similarly, during the past decade, there are an increasing number of alternative
telephony service providers to BT. Specifically, a large number of mobile solutions
for both voice and data exist, able to ensure business continuity in the event of a BT
landline fault occurring.
• Developments in “internet” telephony (“Voice over IP” – or VOIP) and voice services
available via the NHS Network (N3) have matured, again increasing the range of
choice of cost-effective and resilient options available to PCTs with which to provide
telephony and data services.
Our recommendation is therefore that:
• PCTs should note that, from April 2010, faults with BT-provided NHS lines will be
prioritised for repair in exactly the same way as for their other consumer and
business users.
• PCTs should determine whether, as a result of the withdrawal of this service, a
review of the basis on which all telephony and data services are provided is
necessary. The objective of the review should be both to ensure that appropriate
business continuity arrangements are in place (to offset any potential issues arising
from the termination of the BT PFRS service) but also to identify general
opportunities to improve quality and efficiency, taking into account new technologies
and centrally subsidised services available via N3.
• PCTs may contact either their SHA leads or myself for any further information, or to
discuss any point.


Best Regards,


Peter Dyke
Head of Industry Liaison
NHS Connecting for Health
Tel: 07834 602768
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