20 September 2016
Patient-centric healthcare, which puts individual needs at the
heart of NHS delivery, is the key ambition of the Government's
strategy for the future of health services.
The Five Year Forward View sets out clear goals to improve
patient outcomes, create more integrated care, and better allow
patients to manage their own healthcare decisions. Healthcare will
be designed around the individual.
At the same time, the NHS is facing unprecedented budgetary
constraints and, along with all public services, will be required
to do more with less and make the absolute best use of its
Key to delivering this future strategy will be the impeding
overhaul of NHS network connectivity and the delivery of its
replacement, the new Health and Social Care Network (HSCN).
In a new white paper, Next Generation Connectivity for the NHS-
in full here - we look at the impact this will have, and
the challenges the NHS and suppliers will need to overcome to
The contract to deliver the current N3 network will expire in
March 2017, ending reliance on a single-supplier private network.
The market will be open up to competing network providers, who will
be able effectively to design bespoke network packages for Trusts,
hospitals, GPs and other NHS organisations which best suit their
N3, which is one of the largest Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
in Europe with more than 58,000 connections, 63 points of presence
and deploying more than 12,000 km of fibre optic cable, provides
the NHS Internet Gateway, serving 1.3 million employees.
There are clear benefits to opening up network connectivity to a
range of suppliers. N3 lacks agility and flexibility, and network
standards could make it difficult for organisations to deploy and
manage their own applications, especially IP telephony.
Opening up the market to new suppliers will also encourage
competition and innovation, while creating more flexible network
arrangements. This will not only help the NHS secure real value for
money and return on investment, it will also maintain assurance,
security and confidence in the network that all NHS organisations
The HSCN will offer an interoperable network between health and
social care organisations, and will encourage greater integration
of health and social care services, flexible and remote working,
and access to national, regional and locally-hosted
In just a few short months, this ambitious transformation should
become reality. With such a short time frame, there are significant
hurdles to overcome.
Security of data will always be a paramount concern to NHS
bodies, as will continuity of service. Combine this with the added
pressure of creating the physical infrastructure needed to connect
all NHS sites to a robust network, and the scale of the challenge
There is an urgent need to act to deliver transition to the new
provisions quickly. And yet there remains a distinct lack of
awareness within many NHS organisations of the impending contract
end, or where they should go for impartial advice - we believe this
is the most pressing challenge which needs to be addressed at the
earliest opportunity. Many decision makers in the health service
are unaware of the options that will become available to them
through the HSCN and the benefits that it should be able to
Our new report is a call to action. Network connectivity between
organisations and patients supports the wider technology drivers of
digitalisation - a paperless NHS - and mobilisation and
integration, which are key to the Five Year Forward View.
The HSCN can provide secure mobility at Trust locations
such as hospitals, surgeries and third party locations such as care
homes, as well as off-premise, which will help secure the
personalised, mobile, and integrated healthcare of the future.
Read our full report here.
However, it is clear that more needs to be done to communicate
the benefits this transition could bring, and the timeframe within
which it needs to be delivered.