When N3 contracts expired in March 2017, NHS Digital was faced with the challenge of replacing it. The idea was to replace a long-term single supplier contract with a marketplace of network options.
The Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) is the new data network for health and care organisations. HSCN provides the underlying network arrangements to help integrate and transform health and social care services by enabling them to access and share information more reliably, flexibly and efficiently. It is designed to meet the requirements of an integrated and evolving health and social care sector, helping to deliver integrated ICT services.
Unlike N3, health and care providers are able to obtain network connectivity from multiple suppliers in a competitive marketplace and in collaboration with other health and social care organisations. This means that healthcare organisations are back in control of the services and providers they chose. Put simply, HSCN is an incredible digital transformation opportunity with the potential to help our vital healthcare staff.
What does this mean for Health and Social Care?
More secure networks: Only suppliers that meet the quality standards defined by NHS Digital are accredited to sell connections. This ensures the network’s security and resilience and allows health and care organisations to operate with peace of mind.
Reduced costs: Cost-savings and flexible pricing from HSCN suppliers enables healthcare organisations to reduce capital expenditure and increase financial sustainability.
Greater efficiency: By using HSCN compliant networks like Exponential-e, health and care organisations have access to faster network performance delivering future‐ready IT, making it easier to collaborate and share existing services. Furthermore, with reduced network costs, HSCN may allow organisations to reinvest these savings enabling additional benefits for both the organisation and its front line staff.
Technological advancement: New HSCN networks can provide solutions that support better patient outcomes, facilitate mobile working for clinicians, and remove the burden of maintaining and supporting legacy systems through faster network performance – delivering future‐ready IT.
Simpler access to national systems: HSCN connectivity will provide the underlying network arrangements to help integrate and transform health and social care services by enabling organisations to access and share information more reliably, flexibly, and efficiently. Faster and more secure network connections will make it easier to access and utilise NHS Digital’s online tools, check NHS numbers, and access Care Records. This easy access across the region will potentially enable better patient outcomes.
The future of HSCN
Understanding the dynamics of technology and its continual evolution – whether for the purposes of forecasting future needs, or adopting technology infrastructure developments to fuel transformation – is a key challenge for innovators, senior managers, and policymakers.
Today, technology is still thought of as the answer to all our problems – technology is a means, not an end. Elements of the future public sector need to become outcome driven; lower cost, agile by delivery, efficient workflow, and security by default.
Afshin Attari, Director Public Sector Exponential-e, commented, “HSCN has the ability to effectively relieve pressure on hundreds of trusts that have been reliant on ageing network infrastructure. It is also the chief enabling platform for new technologies and services, empowering the public sector with more choice. We’re looking forward to helping the likes of NHS Trusts, CSUs, and CCGs drive innovative thinking across the Health and Social Care Sector, relieving the NHS of the confines of a legacy network in the process. Not only will this make each patient’s experience better but, ultimately, it will also enable frontline staff to carry out their vital jobs as efficiently as possible.”