Skip to main content
Creating a new NHS England: Health Education England, NHS Digital and NHS England have merged. More about the merger.

Spine External Interface Specification (EIS)

The Spine EIS describes how to connect to the Spine national services via HL7 V3 APIs.


The Spine EIS (External Interface Specification) is a set of Word documents that provide system developers (architects, designers, and builders) with the necessary information to connect to the Spine national services via HL7 V3 APIs.

It does not give details of the format of specific messages - for that see the Spine Message Implementation Manual.

Note that many of these specifications and APIs are now superseded, for example:

For individual API details, see the API catalogue.

These are Microsoft Word files. To request a different format, contact us.

EIS Part 1 - Introduction

An overview of audience, background, standards and specification conventions.

EIS Part 2 - Message Handling Service (MHS)

Explains how to build a Message Handling Service (MHS).

You must use an MHS to send correctly structured messages to and from Spine services.

EIS Part 3 - Message Interaction Map

Includes tables of all Spine interactions. In each case it describes the interaction type; for example, synchronous or asynchronous.

EIS Part 4 - Gazetteer Service

Explains how to use the Gazetteer Service, which supports the validation or retrieval of UK-based addresses.

EIS Part 5 - Spine Directory Services (SDS)

Describes the external interfaces necessary for systems to obtain information from the Spine Directory Services (SDS).  SDS provides details of organisations, people and systems registered with the Spine.

Additional notes on Part 5 - Accredited System attributes

EIS Part 5, section describes the LDAP object class for an Accredited System.

We've added the following attribute to the nhsAs object class:

Data Item LDAP Attribute Cardinality Description
Manufacturer Organisation Code nhsMhsManufacturerOrg 1 ODS Code of the supplier whose product is registered on the endpoint associated with the Accredited System

EIS Part 6 - Spine Security Broker (SSB)

Describes the external interfaces required by system implementers to access the Spine Security Broker (SSB) to implement single sign-on.

EIS Part 6 and 7 addendum

For EIS Part 6 SSB v12.2, this addendum outlines the changes you need to overlay on top of the specification.

For EIS Part 7 SSB API, Section 7.7 'PKCS example C', or Section 7.8 'PKCS example Java', refer to the new API interface outlined in Section 4.1.x of this addendum.

Additional notes on Part 6 addendum - support for vendor neutral smartcards

The Part 6 and 7 addendum outlines the changes to be overlaid on top of EIS Part 6 SSB v12.2.

This document is for existing suppliers in the primary care market who have integrated authentication and signing capabilities with the CIS1 service. GP software 'new market entrants' should only integrate with CIS2 and the API Management platform.

EIS Part 7 - Spine Security Broker (SSB) API

Includes the formal specification of SSB Java and C APIs.

Additional notes on Part 7 addendum - C and Java API examples

Spine EIS Part 7 remains relevant for organisations who directly integrate with CIS1 as an authentication service. The document remains live for reference only.

Any sections that refer to PKCS#11 (section 7.7 'PKCS example C' and section 7.8 'PKCS example Java') should use the new API interface outlined in Section 4.1.x in the EIS Part 6 and 7 addendum under ‘EIS Part 6 SSB v12.2' above.

Any GP software 'new market entrants' should integrate directly with CIS2 and the API Management platform. Part 7 and the addendum are not relevant for new market entrants.

Additional notes on Part 7 - identity agent PKCS#11 API

The identity agent exposes the PKCS#11 API on the healthcare worker's computer. C or Java code uses the code libraries distributed with the identity agent's client to access the API. For a detailed example of C and Java, see sections 7.7 and 7.8 in EIS Part 7. 

The API can digitally sign information based on an asymmetric private key and associated digital certificate stored on the healthcare worker's smartcard. Electronic prescription systems use this functionality to sign prescriptions digitally.

EIS Parts 8, 9 and 10

These parts have been withdrawn. 

EIS Part 11 - Access Control Service

Describes the additional Access Control Framework (ACF) subsystem service provided by Spine. Specifically, it covers the requirements for the web services to support resource-based access control maintenance and query.

Primarily used for Summary Care Record (SCR) consent.

EIS Part 12 - One Click CSA

How to launch the Summary Care Record (SCR) application from within other applications.

EIS Appendix A

Information on:
* MHS Standard Elements
* MHS Faults
* Message examples

EIS Appendix B - Errors

Outlines the transport level errors that you might receive back from the Spine.

EIS Appendix C - Validation

Provides more details on transport validation, including the ebXML and HL7 V3 errors you might receive.

Last edited: 14 October 2022 4:58 pm