North Devon Hospice are a charity that provides specialist care and support to people who are affected by a life-limiting illness. 

Effective communication is key to running the hospice which covers the largest geographic area of any hospice in the UK, around 800 square miles and offers care to over 2,000 people every year.

Regular events, the hospice lottery, and a network of charity shops, are key to raising the funds the charity requires to offer specialist care to patients at home and at the hospice, while supporting the whole family throughout these toughest of times.

The Challenges

Driven by the continuing frustration of having an outdated telephone system and faulty handsets with different handsets across the sites, which lead to all sorts of training difficulties for staff who would work on more than one site, North Devon Hospice went to tender for a new telephone system.

The requirement was for a telephone system that would deliver a consistent user experience for head office staff, the 12 plus charity shops and homeworkers and additional functionality that was not available on the outdated system they were using. Being easy to use was a key requirement as many shops are staffed by part-time, retired, volunteers who may not always have another member of staff to offer help on site.

We are delighted with the system. It is easy to use with more features than we had before, for effectively the same price. Plus, the staff love it. Southern Communications are a pleasure to deal with, they took the time to understand what we needed to achieve, were helpful and informative right from the start.

Head of Information Systems & DPO

The SCG solution

The solutions connected the 96 extensions across the shops with the head office, where two main telephonists handle Inbound calls.  Telephony to the shops is delivered across ADSL connections and the ISDN lines at the head office were replaced by 30 SIP trunks delivered over a 20MBs fixed, synchronous, uncontended service. Configured primarily for voice, this connection also provides a much needed back-up service for the data pipe that was already on site.

  • The NEC UNIVERGE 3C sits at the centre of this solution which delivers a consistent experience to staff across all sites, where the features and functionality are now the same, wherever they are working.
  • Overflow and pick up groups mean that if the receptionists are unavailable colleagues could pick up a call or it can be directed straight to an overflow group.
  • DDIs continued to enable calls to be sent directly to individuals.
  • VoIP phones, deployed to remote locations, operate via a new MPLS data architecture, with voice priorities, connecting them together as a single system and management is simplified with a central firewall and internet connectivity which delivers security across the entire solution.
  • The solution used the existing cabling which kept the installation costs low.
  • Efficiency is improved with System labelling, which means staff can easily identify the intended recipient or service of an inbound call and abbreviated dialling saves time when making outbound calls.
  • Management is simplified with permissions, granted to selected users, to be able to add modify and amend essential features such as call groups, auto attended messages and users, via the administration system which is access via a web-based portal, that gives managers flexibility to make changes even when they are when out of the office
  • The system was shortlisted based on the tender requirements, however, the ultimate decision was made by the users, who had been given a demonstration by Southern Communications, and their decision was based on the simplicity of the system and the choice of handsets.


Common features and functionality across all sites means that for North Devon Hospice users moving between sites is easier.

Remote diagnostics means Southern Communications are able to quickly and effectively respond to any support requests, reducing the need for staff to be on site to meet engineers

North Devon Hospice have a system that is cost effective and future proof. Significant time spent in the past training staff on the multiple handsets is eliminated, support is central and can be provided remotely and the system has many new features that save staff time on a daily basis.

The management experience has been improved with central management of telephony across the organisation; Speed dials and other service code functions are easy to configure and use, extension status (BLF) and monitoring of a multitude of other applications and data help to manage call flow.


North Devon Hospice are delighted with the new system and the service received from the staff from Southern Communications, from the first meeting.  The proposal was clear concise and fully inclusive with no hidden extras.