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About HSCN

The Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) is a new data network for health and care organisations replacing N3. It will provide the underlying network arrangements to support the integration and transformation of health and social care services by enabling health and social care organisations to access and share information more reliably, flexibly and efficiently.

Health and care providers will be able to obtain network connectivity from multiple suppliers in a competitive market place and in collaboration with other health and social care organisations. The downloadable icon HSCN Overview [1.94MB] provides a useful introduction to the HSCN solution and plans on migrating N3 services and customers to HSCN.

Key principles
Differences between HSCN and N3
N3 services ended on 31 March 2017
How HSCN works
All health and care providers can connect to HSCN

Key principles

HSCN has been designed to support the delivery of key health and social care initiatives such as National Information Board 'Paperless 2020', NHS England Five Year Forward View, .Sustainability and Transformation Plans and Local Digital Roadmaps. It will:

  • establish network arrangements that support the transformation and integration of health and social care services, regional collaboration and flexible work patterns.
  • enable safe, reliable, flexible and efficient information sharing between health and social care organisations.
  • create a competitive marketplace for network services. Improving consumer choice, delivering improved value for money and enabling organisations to more easily access better, faster and cheaper network telecommunications services.
  • reduce duplication and improve collaboration between health and social care organisations by enabling them to reuse and share existing network infrastructure and services.

Differences between HSCN and N3

N3 was designed in response to requirements that are now 12 years old. It was a single-supplier service, primarily designed for NHS providers to access national applications.

HSCN is different because it's designed to meet the requirements of an integrated and evolving health and social care sector. It's a standards-based network that enables multiple suppliers to provide connectivity services. HSCN enables health and social care organisations to create shared networks, which help deliver shared and integrated ICT services.

N3 services ended on 31 March 2017

The central contract arrangements for N3 ceased on 31 March 2017 and from that date you're no longer able to extend or buy new N3 services. Your connectivity will continue to be supported through the Transition Network and full HSCN services will be available later in 2017. NHS Digital will provide the guidance and advice you need to start planning your migration from N3 to HSCN and will help you migrate to HSCN connectivity services at the earliest opportunity.

We understand that some organisations may, in exceptional circumstances, require additional new connectivity before full HSCN capability is available. If you do require urgent new connectivity please discuss this with your Regional Migration Manager.

Your existing N3 services will continue to operate via the HSCN Transition Network until you migrate to HSCN.

How HSCN works 

HSCN will be an interoperable 'network of networks' provided by multiple suppliers who will adhere to common and open standards. It will act as a single network provided by many suppliers. This means health and care providers can access services and share information, regardless of their location or network supplier.

We've worked with network suppliers to create standards and a compliance process that won't require major investment to adhere to, maximising supplier participation. Once suppliers have demonstrated adherence to the HSCN standards we'll permit them to sell HSCN connectivity as an HSCN compliant supplier. You can check the compliance status of suppliers on the Migrating to HSCN webpage.

We'll continue to monitor supplier compliance to ensure the integrity of the HSCN environment is retained.

Central capabilities

The HSCN programme will deliver the central infrastructure and capabilities required to manage the safe and reliable operation of the multiple-supplier HSCN network environment. The level of central capability required may vary over time as the HSCN environment matures but in the first instance NHS Digital will ensure sufficient capability exists to support business continuity, migration and early operation.

Shared and innovative services

HSCN will establish a highly available and accessible network to enable the sharing of innovative and flexible enterprise services. By collectively converging onto the HSCN, health and social care service providers will be able to reliably and cost effectively exploit telecommunications and business services across locations and organisational boundaries.

Regional collaboration

We'll support regional partnerships and collaboration through shared network arrangements.

Regional networks can generate savings through aggregated procurement and shared service initiatives. They can also help maximise the potential for sharing information, services and assets across health and social care providers within a defined area such as a Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) area.

The HSCN approach enables different supplier networks to interoperate with one another. Health and social care organisations are able to consume nationally, regionally and locally hosted services and collaborate on shared service initiatives, with their service delivery partners, regardless of their network provider.

All health and care providers can connect to HSCN

This includes NHS and non-NHS organisations involved in the provision of health and care, as well as commercial third parties who provide applications and services to health and care providers.

Have a question? Call us on 0300 303 5678 or contact enquiries@nhsdigital.nhs.uk.

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