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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 HSCN works
Customer journey
Procurement routes
HSCN Suppliers
Connection Agreement and Information Governance
Technical guidance
Stakeholder engagement

HSCN is a new data network for health and care organisations

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 icon HSCN Overview 2016 v1.0 [1.94MB]  provides a useful introduction to the HSCN solution for customers looking to connect to HSCN.

Benefits of joining 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.

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 - full HSCN services will be available later in 2017. NHS Digital will provide the guidance and advice you need to procure HSCN connectivity.

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

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 HSCN procurement options page.

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 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.

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.

HSCN customer journey

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

Procurement routes

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

We'll be providing further detailed procurement and migration guidance online in due course.

HSCN Suppliers

HSCN will be 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 either replace existing N3 connectivity services or 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.

Connection Agreement and Information Governance

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.

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.

Read about how HSCN will improve the cyber capabilities of the network.

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

Technical guidance

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

Stakeholder engagement

The HSCN programme team continues to engage with our health and social care stakeholders via:

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)

Telecommunications Industry:

  • Tech UK
  • Innopsis

Have a question? Call us on 0300 303 5678 or contact

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