BT has been unveiled as the new supplier for the £350m Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN).

The telecoms giant will become the sole provider for public sector network connectivity over the next six years following a lengthy procurement process.

SWAN connects over 6,000 public sector sites in Scotland, including schools, hospitals, local council buildings, GP surgeries, pharmacies and every NHS Board. It also includes the critical Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service.

NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) awarded the contract on behalf of the Scottish Government – following a competitive tender process against Capita.

BT has pledged to accelerate the digital transformation of Scotland’s public sector including to some of the most rural areas across the country.

The contract will allow for better communication, data sharing and collaboration across more than all sites, including 94 public sector organisations. BT pledges to bring ‘significantly faster and improved fibre broadband and mobile connections and resilience’ to its network members.

BT’s investment in future-proofing its infrastructure will accelerate fibre and mobile connectivity to some of the most remote parts of Scotland, helping to deliver on the digital ambitions of the Scottish Government.

Benefits for the public are likely to include time saving with patients, for example, being able to be seen remotely by clinicians rather than having to travel long distances across islands.

With 22 NHS Scotland boards, 278 general and community hospitals and more than 900 GP practices set to be connected to the network, BT’s investment in SWAN will support essential public health services, reducing costs and increasing the efficiency of connected organisations.

Michael Matheson, cabinet secretary for NHS recovery, health and social care, said: “This major investment from the Scottish Government, and our public sector partners, will make sure that staff across our public services have access to rapid and reliable connections with a greater capacity and bandwidth. 

“The SWAN programme will drive benefits for communities across Scotland, making sure that no one is left behind and can access the benefits of technology.” 

BT Group employs around 7,000 colleagues in Scotland who live and work in nearly every community in the country. Relying on the use of public services themselves ensures these colleagues are committed to making these services the best that they can be for their own communities.

Alan Lees, director for business, BT in Scotland, said: “BT is committed to playing its part in helping to shape and to deliver transformational public sector services for people across Scotland now and into the future.

“BT is proud to become the sole provider of next generation connectivity services to the Scottish public sector via the SWAN Framework. We strongly believe in the difference that highly resilient and secure connectivity can make to the delivery of public services in Scotland and with our expertise and investment we can accelerate the digital transformation of services to the public.

“This contract will see us deliver a cost effective and innovative communications framework, which will benefit public sector employees, citizens and services in ways that we have not seen before. We have access to the largest next generation networks. Our mobile network EE was the first to launch 5G in Scotland and EE now has by far the highest levels of 4G coverage across Scotland’s landmass at 75 per cent, which is 8 per cent higher than our nearest competitor. We’re able to help the public sector to do things that they never imagined possible before, supporting our shared ambition of ‘Connecting Scotland for Good.’”

Mary Morgan, chief executive of NHS National Services Scotland (NSS), said: “This is a significant milestone for NSS, and for the many partner organisations across the public sector who depend upon SWAN, including NHS Scotland.

“Swift and secure connectivity is at the heart of modern future-facing public services. Robust digital infrastructure is key to successful innovation and service improvements that will benefit citizens, families and communities. 

“We are pleased to have secured this long-term partnership with BT in Scotland. NSS will continue to manage the SWAN Network effectively on behalf of its members so that together we can deliver for all citizens and stakeholders.”