Existing NHS and public sector customers
The Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) is a new data network for health and care organisations replacing N3.
The central contract arrangements for N3 ceased on 31 March 2017. From this date, the N3 network and existing contract arrangements will be known as the Transition Network until your transition to HSCN services is complete. Your connectivity will continue to be supported through the Transition Network and full HSCN services will be available later in 2017.
The following advice is written for existing NHS and public sector customers who wish to plan their migration from the Transition Network to HSCN. If you represent a private sector organisation please see private sector organisations: migration advice.
HSCN is a new data network for health and care organisations
Benefits of HSCN
How HSCN works
Preparing to Migrate
How to Procure
Connection Agreement and Information Governance
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 help integrate and transform 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 HSCN Overview [1.94MB] provides a useful introduction to the HSCN solution for existing Transition Network customers who need to migrate to HSCN.
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 help transform and integrate 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 over 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.
HSCN will feature comprehensive security monitoring and analysis functionality, providing a central capability to detect irregular traffic volumes or flows, in near real time. HSCN consumers will benefit from this capability as potential problems can be detected and resolved promptly.
Whilst these capabilities undoubtedly enhance network security, like N3 previously, HSCN should not be considered a 'secure' network. All connected organisations must risk assess their use of the HSCN, and employ their own security controls to protect any data for which they are responsible. The HSCN will not automatically encrypt any data, or guarantee the security of data or communications by default.
So like N3 or the internet, HSCN is not suitable to exchange patient or sensitive data without additional security safeguards. Where patient or sensitive data needs to be exchanged it must be encrypted in transit. National applications like NHSmail and Spine do this by encrypting the communication between the application and end user device.
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 you can contact HSCN compliant suppliers now to procure HSCN connectivity. 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.
Your existing N3 services will continue to operate via the HSCN Transition Network until you migrate to HSCN.
HSCN is an interoperable 'network of networks' provided by multiple suppliers who will adhere to common and open standards. It acts 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 HSCN suppliers page.
We'll continue to monitor supplier compliance to ensure the integrity of the HSCN environment is retained.
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.
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 NHS Digital will ensure sufficient capability exists to support business continuity, migration and early operation.
Shared and innovative services
HSCN will establish a reliable and accessible network to enable the sharing of innovative and flexible enterprise services. By collectively migrating to 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.
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.
We've defined a six-stage customer journey to help you understand the process for procuring and migrating to new HSCN services.
We'll help Transition Network customers plan their migration. We'll talk to all NHS, national application and private sector (3rd party) organisations to understand their needs.
If you've not already done so, please ensure you nominate a point of contact for us to communicate with. You can do this by emailing us at email@example.com.
Consider what services you need to replace your existing N3 services. This includes connectivity services and 'overlay' products like video conferencing. You can speak to your Regional Migration Manager about this and read more about procuring business applications for HSCN.
Overlay services like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), video conferencing and remote access will be able to run over HSCN. Customers will be responsible for procuring their own overlay services through independent procurement routes. Any overlay services currently on N3 will need to be migrated at the same time or ahead of the N3 connection.
Think about how you want to buy HSCN services, and when.
Procuring HSCN connectivity
One of the first things you need to decide is how you wish to obtain HSCN connectivity services.
You'll be able to:
- arrange your own HSCN connectivity - we'll help you define and identify services in the HSCN marketplace
- join one of our centrally managed procurements - we'll include you within an aggregated procurement to get economies of scale
- get HSCN connectivity via an existing network service or regional network partnership
Health and care organisations will be able to source HSCN compliant services in a number of ways. Broadly these include:
Option A - aggregated procurement (NHS Digital managed)
To allow timely migration to HSCN connectivity NHS Digital will be managing a series of aggregated procurements. These will combine health and social care organisations' HSCN connectivity requirements into a single procurement, based on a geographical footprint and other relevant considerations.
Option B - collaborative procurement (customer led)
Some organisations are collaborating with health and social care partners in the procurement of a shared network. Find out more about collaborative procurement initiatives.
Collaborative procurements require organisations to work together operationally. Specifically they need to understand their joint requirements and establish joint governance and shared network management arrangements.
Option C - individual self-serve (customer led)
You can manage your own procurement of HSCN connectivity without involving other organisations. This won't constrain your ability to access and share data with other health and social care organisations connected to HSCN.
NHS Digital will provide online guidance, tools and processes for customers to use but there will be little day-to-day central involvement other than help with migration capacity planning and progress reporting.
You can find a guide to HSCN procurement options on the HSCN procurement options page. Here you'll find the contact details for your Regional Migration Managers; please contact them if you wish to discuss your options further.
You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We'll be providing further detailed procurement and migration guidance online in due course.
HSCN is delivered by multiple suppliers providing interoperable network services that adhere to an agreed set of standards. This means health and social care organisations are able to replace existing Transition Network connectivity services with HSCN services procured from a choice of suppliers within a competitive marketplace.
This is the HSCN supplier assurance watermark.
In order to obtain the HSCN assurance mark and start selling HSCN connectivity services, suppliers need to apply for and achieve HSCN compliance.
If you're interested in understanding more about the supplier compliance process visit the supplier section of the HSCN web pages where there are details of HSCN compliant suppliers and those going through the assurance process.
Funding arrangements and who pays the bills for connectivity are changing with HSCN. Learn more about HSCN connectivity funding arrangements for NHS organisations, and what you need to do next, on our Connectivity Funding page.
We'll simplify the process you have to go through before you can connect to an HSCN compliant network.
We have introduced an HSCN Connection Agreement. This has replaced the previous N3 Information Governance Statement of Compliance (IGSoC) and separates the arrangements for getting a connection to the network from those relating to data access or use of services.
Connecting to HSCN
The HSCN Connection Agreement sets out the things HSCN customers must do before and whilst using the HSCN. The HSCN Connection Agreement is organisation-centric. Each organisation needs to sign and submit a Connection Agreement no matter how many locations or HSCN connections they have or use.
You'll need to complete an HSCN Connection Agreement before procuring from an HSCN Compliant supplier. Existing Transition Network customers have been invited by email to complete the Connection Agreement online. If your organisation hasn't received an invite please let us know by email to email@example.com
Improving cyber security
Patients, service users and staff have a right to expect that information about them is held securely. HSCN customers have a duty under the law to protect information. Increasingly, information is at risk from malicious activity, such as hacking and computer viruses (often called malware). Protecting information held on computers is called cyber security.
For guidance and policy documents relating to Internet Protocol (IP) addressing, Quality of Service (QoS) and all other technical guidance relating to HSCN please see the HSCN technical guidance page.
The HSCN programme team continues to engage with our health and social care stakeholders via:
- HSCN specific webinars and events
- our own Programme Advisory Group (PAG) [136.67KB] which has representation from a broad range of organisations involved in the provision of health and social care
Sector specific forums used to engage with health and social care stakeholders
Health and Social Care:
- HSCN Programme Advisory Group (PAG)
- NHS England Regions Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) areas
- General Practice Committee & Royal College of General Practitioners
- IT Sub Committee
- National Ambulance Service IM&T Leads Group
- Health Chief Information Officer Network
- Chief Clinical Information Officers Network
- Regional Chief Information Officers Forums
- Pharmacy IM&T Group
- Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) Stakeholder Forum
- Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) - Informatics Network
- Local Government Delivery Council (LGDC)
- Health and Social Care Integration Pioneers Programme
- National Information Board (NIB)
- Tech UK