The NHS’s national email and directory service NHSmail is to be upgraded to run on Microsoft Exchange 2007 in
a technology refresh included in an existing contract with Cable & Wireless.
NHSmail gives NHS staff an email account and allows them to send identifiable patient information securely. It was launched in October 2004 and almost 260,000 NHS staff are now registered for an account.
Cable & Wireless signed a nine-year contract with NHS Connecting for Health (CfH), which runs the £12.4bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT), in July 2004, after the NHS body cancelled the original £90m email and directory services contract with EDS.
CfH had cited low take-up of the service as the reason behind the termination, which prompted a threat of legal action from the contractor. The dispute was eventually resolved "without any attribution of blame to either party". The current Cable & Wireless contract is valued between £50m and £90m, depending on usage.
A CfH spokesperson said the refresh was needed because “the landscape has changed in terms of available technologies and the state of the marketplace” since the service went live in October 2004.
Existing infrastructure would be re-used “as far as possible” to avoid duplication of cost.
The move to Microsoft Exchange 2007 running Outlook and Outlook Web Access would give users the ability to ‘drag and drop’ when organising folders, emails and calendars.
It will also give the ability to make changes to accounts when offline, a “very significant number of improvements to calendars”, “push” email and wireless synchronisation of calendar, contacts and tasks to mobile devices, the ability to share contacts with colleagues and other enhancements, the spokesperson said.
“As a result of the technology refresh NHS staff will be using the de facto standard for email services,” he added.
Outgoing CfH director general Richard Granger this week claimed the costs of his NPfIT had been inflated and the £12.4bn price tag now attached to the scheme was a figure he agreed to under “significant pressure” from the National Audit Office.