New to HSCN
The Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) is a new data network for health and care organisations, replacing N3.
HSCN is a new data network for health and care organisations
Benefits of joining HSCN
How to obtain HSCN connectivity
How HSCN works
Connection Agreement and Information Governance
The information on this page is intended as an overview of HSCN for all organisations looking to obtain a new HSCN connection.
NHS Digital have also produced tailored guidance for:
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 2016 v1.0 [1.94MB] provides a useful introduction to the HSCN solution for customers looking to connect 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 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
The potential benefits of joining HSCN are:
- the ability to send and receive secure data between health and social care organisations, supporting information and service sharing
- cheaper connectivity than previous N3 services
- simpler network Information Governance requirements
- helping staff across health and care work together
- standardised networks
- simpler access to NHS Digital's national applications, making it easier to confirm NHS numbers, share care plans and access Summary Care Records
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 buy new N3 services. You can contact HSCN compliant suppliers now to procure HSCN connectivity. NHS Digital will provide the guidance and advice you need to procure HSCN connectivity.
Buying HSCN connectivity
Health and social care organisations can buy HSCN connectivity from a choice of HSCN suppliers within a competitive marketplace.
A list of HSCN suppliers is published and kept up to date on the NHS Digital HSCN webpages.
You can use the HSCN Quote Form [62.5KB] when asking suppliers to provide pricing so the responses they get back are in a consistent format and easy to compare.
You can also use the new HSCN dynamic purchasing system (DPS) to obtain HSCN connectivity services conveniently and cost-effectively.
The DPS, known as RM3825, is managed by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) and provides a simple and efficient way for health and social care organisations to buy HSCN connectivity from a choice of compliant suppliers.
For more info read the HSCN Buying Guide [841.4KB] .
Existing regional HSCN initiatives
NHS Digital is currently managing the migration of existing N3 customers to HSCN connectivity. The timelines associated with this migration only apply if you're currently connected to N3. If you aren't an existing N3 customer you can plan to buy HSCN connectivity whenever and however you please.
Because all HSCN connectivity suppliers connect to one another, you will still be able to access and share information with everyone else connected to HSCN regardless of when you connect or which supplier you choose.
However, you may wish to consider joining a procurement initiative already in development.
Many health providers have organised themselves into partnerships and are seeking to collaborate on the establishment of shared regional networks. Details of these regional initiatives, and the organisations involved in them are regularly updated. If you would like to join one of these initiates, please let NHS Digital know by emailing us at email@example.com and we will put you in touch with the lead organisation.
NHS Digital is also planning to manage a series of aggregated procurements on behalf of health and care organisations. An indicative schedule of aggregated procurements is available on the NHS Digital HSCN webpages. If you would like to join one of these initiatives, please let NHS Digital know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will need to commit to an aggregated procurement a minimum of 6 weeks before it launches.
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.
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 moving 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.
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.
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 new social care and private sector customers to join HSCN.
The first thing you need to understand is if you actually require an HSCN connection, and if so what options are available to you. HSCN will enable you to share patient information with other organisations in a safe way, and to access NHS Digital's national applications.
You may be able to reuse existing connectivity, such as through existing Public Services Network (PSN) connections, or share a connection with another health and social care organisation that you share a building or site with. Other health and social care organisations in your area will be procuring HSCN as well so it may be useful to speak with your local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) or Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) to see if you can coordinate plans with them.
HSCN supports a number of procurement options. You'll be able to:
- arrange your own HSCN connectivity - we'll help you identify suitable services in the HSCN marketplace
- join one of our centrally managed procurements - we'll include you within an aggregated procurement so you can benefit from 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. The simplest route available for non-public sector organisations is to get in touch with HSCN compliant suppliers directly. We've designed the HSCN Quote Form [62.5KB] to assist with this.
You can find a guide to other HSCN procurement routes on the HSCN procurement options page. Here you'll find the details of your Regional Migration Managers; please contact them to discuss your options further.
You can also email us at email@example.com.
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 buy new HSCN services 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 webpages where there are details of HSCN Compliant suppliers and those going through the assurance process.
We have simplified the process of connecting to the network by introducing the 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. You'll need to complete an HSCN Connection Agreement before procuring from a HSCN compliant supplier.
Information Governance Toolkit and data security
A current Information Governance Toolkit (IGT) is no longer a requirement to access HSCN. However, all organisations that handle patient data are still required to meet the requirements of the IGT and to provide evidence for this through an annual submission. This means that a current IGT is still required to access NHS Digital's national applications such as NHS e-Referral Service (ERS), Personal Demographics Service (PDS) and Secondary Uses Service (SUS).
There's currently a programme of work underway to update the IGT. This will increase its relevance for senior managers and its accessibility for small organisations.
The updates will:
- focus on the new data security standards recommended by the National Data Guardian
- increase the focus on timely reporting of incidents
- reduce administrative burden on NHS organisations
More information can be found at https://www.igt.hscic.gov.uk/.
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.