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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 became the Transition Network (TN). The Transition Network will ensure service continuity until your transition to HSCN services is complete. The HSCN went live during October 2017 and migration to HSCN connectivity is available now.

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.

The Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) is a new data network for health and care organisations succeeding N3. It provides 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 are 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 provides a useful introduction to the HSCN solution for existing Transition Network customers who need to migrate to HSCN.

The HSCN is an important transitional stage in achieving the vision of making digital health and social care services widely available over the internet. In providing both public and private connectivity over one connection it will:

  • help organisations and services move to internet and cloud based architectures
  • provide highly effective access to the critical digital services that are not currently available on the internet, upon which health and care relies
  • help organisations protect themselves against network related cybersecurity threats

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 features comprehensive security monitoring and analysis functionality, providing a central capability to detect irregular traffic volumes or flows, in near real time. HSCN consumers 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.

Read more about HSCN and the cyber capabilities of the network.

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.

Central capabilities

The HSCN programme delivers 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 has established a reliable and accessible network enabling the sharing of innovative and flexible enterprise services. By collectively migrating to HSCN, health and social care service providers are able to reliably and cost effectively exploit telecommunications and business services across locations and organisational boundaries.

Regional collaboration

HSCN supports 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.

The HSCN consumer handbook provides a guide to the services available from HSCN service providers and advice on some of the procedures for managing and maintaining live HSCN services. The content is structured to provide a general description of the HSCN service, the incident reporting process, and information on the roles and responsibilities of parties within the HSCN model.


NHS Digital have published guidance on data off-shoring and cloud computing for health and social care. This guidance is applicable for all organisations connecting to HSCN.

The NHS and social care data: off-shoring and the use of public cloud services has been written jointly by NHS Digital, NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS Improvement.

Guidance in brief

NHS and social care providers may use cloud computing services for NHS data. Data must only be hosted within the UK, European Economic Area (EEA), a country deemed adequate by the European Commission, or in the US where covered by Privacy Shield.

Senior information risk owners (SIROs) locally should be satisfied about appropriate security arrangements (using National cyber security essentials as a guide) in conjunction with data protection officers and Caldicott guardians.

Help and advice from the Information Commissioner's Office is available and regularly updated.

Changes to data protection legislation, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) from 25 May 2018, puts strict restrictions on the transfer of personal data, particularly when this transfer is outside the European Union. The ICO also regularly updates its GDPR guidance.

NHS Digital has provided some detailed guidance documents to support health and social care organisations. 

We've defined a six-stage customer journey to help you understand the process for procuring and migrating to new HSCN services. 

We're helping 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

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

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

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.

We've simplified the process you have to go through before you can connect to  HSCN.

We have introduced an HSCN Connection Agreement. This 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. It can be signed online using the HSCN Portal. To register for an account, please complete the self service registration process. You will need to know your Organisation Data Service (ODS) code and the contact details of the person who will sign the Connection Agreement.

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.

Wherever you are on your migration journey to HSCN, we are keen to understand your procurement and migration experiences and if you’ve completed migration how satisfied you are with your new HSCN supplier and services. 

NHS Digital have created a survey to gather your feedback and we’d be grateful if you would share your experiences with by completing the HSCN Customer Satisfaction Survey.

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.

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.

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

Further information

  1. internal

    New to HSCN

    The Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) is a new data network for health and care organisations, replacing N3.

  2. internal

    HSCN supplier information

    The Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) is a secure way for health and social care organisations to share information. Some elements of HSCN are delivered centrally by NHS Digital or its partners, and others can be supplied by any organisation which can demonstrate that they comply with the standards.

  3. internal

    HSCN technical guidance

    Guidance, policy and best practice documents covering all technical aspects of HSCN. Documents on this page will be regularly reviewed and updated by NHS Digital as required.

  4. internal

    HSCN customer journey

    The N3 contract for wide area data network services in the NHS ended as planned on 31 March 2017. You can obtain HSCN connectivity through a number of different routes from a list of approved suppliers.

  5. internal

    Connecting to HSCN

    The HSCN Connection Agreement sets out the things HSCN customers must do before and whilst using HSCN.

  6. internal

    HSCN procurement options

    The N3 contract for wide area data network services in the NHS ended as planned on 31 March 2017. Organisations need to plan and execute their migration to HSCN connectivity and exit from the Transition Network as soon as possible.

  7. internal

    HSCN connectivity funding

    HSCN connectivity funding arrangements will support the adoption of network services. The arrangements will enable flexibility in the commissioning and provision of new services that meet local needs.

  8. internal

    Improving cyber security

    Patients, service users and staff have a right to expect that information about them is held securely. Protecting information held on computers is called cyber security.

  9. internal

    HSCN Internet Protocol (IP) addressing policy

    This HSCN Internet Protocol (IP) addressing policy defines the legitimate addressing schemes and the working principles for their use. This policy statements set out in this document are necessary to underpin the transition to the HSCN in support of the business needs of health and social care.

Last edited: 28 August 2019 10:30 am