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HSCN: an introduction for social care organisations

The Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) enables health and social care providers to access and exchange electronic information reliably, safely, conveniently and cost effectively.

All NHS organisations will be connecting to HSCN over the next 2 years and will be using HSCN to share information and deliver digitally enabled services.

Social care organisations should also consider obtaining HSCN connectivity in order to improve their ability to access and share information and services reliably, and benefit from security-enhanced internet connectivity.

Why social care organisations should adopt HSCN
Practical examples of how HSCN could help social care organisations deliver services
Customer journey

Why social care organisations should adopt HSCN

Improved integration and sharing

Health and social care organisations need to share information and services electronically in order to provide coherent, joined up services to the public.

HSCN enables all organisations involved in the provision of health and care services to share information with one another and to access national and local health applications and systems reliably and efficiently. See examples of how HSCN could help social care organisations deliver services.

HSCN is also designed to enable NHS and non-NHS social care organisations to collaborate with one another more easily on the procurement and operation of shared, place-based, data networks.

Cost effective, reliable and flexible connectivity

HSCN provides highly reliable and available private network connectivity required for accessing the numerous national and local health and social care systems today. It also offers internet connectivity with enhanced security over the same connection.

Because HSCN is provided by multiple, competing suppliers, to a defined set of standards that are aligned to existing industry practice, network connectivity will cost broadly the same as standard broadband connectivity and significantly less than it did under the previous National NHS Network (N3) arrangements.

HSCN standards are designed to enable a broad range of suppliers to offer network services that use the latest technology and innovation without compromising seamless interoperability.

Enhanced security

HSCN has enhanced, centrally managed security capabilities to protect against escalating cyber threats and to ensure high levels of network reliability and availability are maintained.

Practical examples of how HSCN could help social care organisations deliver services

Before making the decision to buy a HSCN connection it's important to consider:

  • what your organisation could use the connection for
  • what benefits may be available to you by using HSCN to connect with other health and care organisations

While HSCN connectivity alone will not transform health and care services, we've listed some practical examples of how HSCN could help improve the services your organisation offers. We recommend that you speak to other health and care organisations you already work alongside, and read more about some of the systems and applications used by health and care organisations on the NHS Digital website, before making your decision.

Medical discharge summary improvements

Care homes and other care providers such as domiciliary care could benefit greatly from having a consistent electronic transfer of medical discharge summary (typically sent to a GP within 24 hours). This would enable them to fully prepare their service for supporting people discharged from a hospital. 

At present, the medical discharge summary is often sent to care homes by post or by the person who has been discharged. This can create a delay between the discharge and the care home understanding the person's needs, which may have changed significantly in that time.

HSCN could be used to enable social care organisations to access the medical discharge summary held within an acute provider's IT systems. This would enable the care home to understand and prepare for the person's needs well in advance of their arrival and would help improve the efficiency of the discharge process generally.

Improved access to centrally and locally held data

Improved access to up-to-date medical information can lead to better care provision. 

HSCN can provide social care organisations an access to national applications, such as Summary Care Records (SCR) and locally held data sources like GP records, to obtain information on prescriptions, allergies and end of life care preferences.

Safer internet services

Almost all organisations benefit from data network connectivity to do business today, even if that is just for an access to the internet.

Internet connectivity provided through HSCN costs broadly the same as standard business broadband connectivity and provides additional protection against cyber threats. It can also be used to provide private network connectivity if the care homes need to hold data that is only available on HSCN.

Customer journey

To support new social care customers joining HSCN we've created a 4-step customer journey for new customers looking to join HSCN.

4-step customer journey

Step 1 - contact suppliers

HSCN connectivity is supplied via a marketplace of compliant suppliers (called Consumer Network Service Providers or CN-SPs); you can find details of which suppliers have achieved compliance, and an explanation of the HSCN compliance process on the HSCN Suppliers page.

Contacting suppliers about HSCN connectivity

Health and social care organisations can buy HSCN connectivity from a choice of HSCN Suppliers within a competitive marketplace.

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.

A complete list of HSCN suppliers and their contact details is published and kept up to date on the HSCN Suppliers page.

When buying your HSCN connection we strongly advise you to contact several suppliers so you can get the best value for money connection for your needs.

While it's not essential, we advise that you use the icon HSCN Quote Form [62.5KB]  when asking suppliers to provide pricing so the responses they get back are consistent and easy to compare. This form has been shared with suppliers already and you can see a list of those suppliers able and willing to respond using this form.

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.

Depending on your requirements 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 initiatives, please let NHS Digital know by emailing us at enquiries@nhsdigital.nhs.uk 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. These will be run regionally to this indicative schedule. If you would like to join one of these initiatives, please let NHS Digital know by emailing us at enquiries@nhsdigital.nhs.uk. You will need to commit to an aggregated procurement a minimum of 6 weeks before it launches.

Step 2 - complete a Connection Agreement

Every organisation that wants to use HSCN must complete a Connection Agreement.

The HSCN Connection Agreement can be submitted now. You can complete a Connection Agreement at any point before you connect to HSCN, we advise that you do this as soon as possible to make sure you won't face any delays.

You'll need to provide the following information to us to complete a Connection Agreement - these details should be submitted by email to enquiries@nhsdigital.nhs.uk:

  1. Organisation name and address - this should match the information held against your organisations ODS code.
  2. ODS code - you can search for your ODS code using the NHS Digital ODS Portal.
  3. Name and email address of HSCN point of contact - this should be the person responsible for completing the Connection Agreement. 

Once we've received this information we'll send an invite with registration details by email to the nominated contact details.

Step 3 - buy a HSCN connection

Once you've contacted a number of suppliers, and compared the quotes they've offered for the type of connection you need, you'll be able to:

  • select which supplier you want to buy from
  • let them know when you want your connection to start

You won't need to confirm these details to NHS Digital as we'll be working with suppliers to make sure we know about any new organisations joining HSCN.

For more info read the icon HSCN Buying Guide [841.4KB] .

Step 4 - connect to HSCN

To connect ot HSCN you'll need to:

  • pick a supplier
  • pick the services you need
  • submit your HSCN Connection Agreement

Your supplier will provide you with details of any steps you'll need to make at the site, or sites, where you'll be connecting to HSCN.

We'll be working with suppliers to arrange installation dates for new customers as required.

If you'd like more info on any of the steps in the customer journey you can contact us at enquiries@nhsdigital.nhs.uk.

There's also more detailed guidance on HSCN on the rest of our website - see the related pages below.

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

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