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Creating a new NHS England: NHS England and NHS Digital merged on 1 February 2023. More about the merger.

NHS winter pressures: advice for health sites seeking capacity increase of existing connection

Due to increased demand placed on the network capacity of healthcare providers, we recommend that all sites increase their connectivity service to make further use of their existing physical network bearers.


Sites which have purchased a connectivity service that has been capped, meaning it is lower than the maximum bandwidth capacity of their primary HSCN physical bearer, should review their connectivity service and network utilisation. Where utilisation is running higher than 75%, we recommend increasing your connectivity service’s cap to access more of the bearer’s existing capacity.


It is particularly important to act now in advance of the anticipated winter pressures the health service will face and any second wave of COVID-19.

Why its necessary to consider upgrading existing connectivity

Given the unparalleled challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world of work, and particularly healthcare provision, has changed beyond recognition. With the increased demand being placed on the network capacity of healthcare providers of all sizes, we recommend that all sites increase their connectivity service to make further use of their existing physical network bearers.

In the event of a second significant increase in COVID-19 cases, combined with added winter pressures, it may be necessary to offer an increased suite of remote services, including video consultations for patients and increased remote working for staff. According to Microsoft usage statistics, a high-definition video call requires a minimum download/upload speed of 2Mbps. As such, networks can quickly come under strain if staff need to move work to a virtual environment.

Caps applied to local connectivity speeds may hinder end user’s ability to:

  • upload large files
  • adopt Cloud hosted services
  • adopt Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony and video conferencing
  • run multiple lines of data traffic

This considered, we advise you to review and improve your service connection to make best use of the infrastructure that has already been commissioned to your site, in advance of a potential second wave of COVID-19.

How to upgrade connectivity

Yo should first contact your existing HSCN supplier, as they will be best positioned to provide guidance on what additional capacity is available on the existing bearer and whether there will be a cost to upgrading your connection.

Note: in this scenario, it’s usually possible to increase the upper capacity limit remotely rather than having an engineer visit the site. Your existing HSCN supplier will be able to work with you and provide full guidance on the steps required to enact this network capacity increase.

Next steps

If you have purchased a connectivity service that has been capped under the maximum capacity of your primary HSCN bearer, you should review your service and network utilisation. Where it is running higher than 75%, you should explore getting this cap increased as soon as possible.

As mentioned above, you should prioritise speaking to your existing HSCN supplier to review the options available to you.

Please contact the Access Logistics Hub by 16 October 2020 with a copy of the quote from your HSCN Supplier for a contribution towards increasing your capacity until March 2021.

Further to the above, NHS Digital requires your organisation to undertake that it, its partners and its sub-contractors are fully compliant with the Public Contract Regulations in respect of how any procurements or contract variations under an existing contract relating to these connectivity upgrades are carried out.

If there are any further questions regarding this process, please contact [email protected] for guidance.

Last edited: 12 October 2020 8:19 pm