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HSCN is a new data network for health and care organisations
HSCN 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 customers looking to connect 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:
- helps organisations and services move to internet and cloud based architectures
- provides highly effective access to the critical digital services not currently available on the internet, upon which health and care relies
- helps organisations protect themselves against network related cybersecurity threats
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.
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.
How to obtain HSCN connectivity
NHS Business Partners
For organisations who don't have an existing Transition Network connection but are interested in working with NHS organisations as a provider or partner introductory information is available on the NHS Business Partners page, including an NHS Business Partners mini-guide.
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 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.
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.
How HSCN works
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.
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
- 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 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 HSCN 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.
Connection Agreement and Information Governance
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.
Signing the Connection Agreement
The HSCN Connection Agreement should be signed by an individual in a senior role in your organisation.
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.
ODS codes are used to uniquely identify organisations within the health and social care sector. You can search for existing ODS codes using the ODS Portal (Transition Network/HSCN connection required). Register for an ODS code if you don't already have one.
When you've signed the Connection Agreement online you'll receive an automated confirmation email with a copy of your signed Connection Agreement attached.
Information Governance and data security
It is not necessary to complete a Data Security and Protection Toolkit (DSPT) assessment in order to gain access to HSCN. However, all organisations that have or require access to NHS patient data and systems must use this toolkit to provide assurance that they are practising good data security and that personal information is handled correctly.
This means that having an HSCN connection does not automatically grant your organisation access to the systems and services available on it. A DSPT assessment is still required to access NHS Digital’s national applications (such as the NHS e-Referral Service (ERS), Personal Demographics Service (PDS) and Secondary Uses Service (SUS)). Other suppliers may have alternative prerequisites for access to their systems.
More information about the systems and services provided by NHS Digital can be found on the NHS Digital systems and services page.
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 Connection Agreement sets out the things HSCN customers must do before and whilst using HSCN.
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.
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.
Social care organisations should 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.
Next steps for existing Transition Network (legacy N3) users migrating to HSCN.
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.
Find out about the latest news, events and webinars for HSCN.
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.
Support and guidance for private sector organisations migrating from the Transition Network to HSCN.
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.