BT gives discount to health service

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The Independent Online
BRITISH TELECOM has bowed to government pressure to cut prices to the National Health Service, its largest customer, writes Michael Cross.

Tom Sackville, the junior health minister responsible for information technology, is due to announce the deal on Thursday. It will cut the NHS's pounds 150m annual phone bill by at least 10 per cent, and it could herald major changes for heavy users of the telephone network.

The decision follows more than a year of lobbying by civil servants at the NHS Management Executive for a large customer's discount. Until now, BT has refused unless it could bill the NHS centrally - an idea incompatible with the Government's visions of a decentralised health service. However, developments over the past few months have forced BT into a deal.

In August, the Treasury gave the go-ahead for a new electronic network to link every NHS hospital, GP surgery and health authority by the end of 1996.

The first stage of this project, a national 'spine' run by Racal Data Networks, will go live in April.

The idea is that this network will carry computer data needed to run the NHS internal market, telephone calls and mobile communications.