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Internet First

Internet First was an NHS Digital programme set up to help health and care organisations in England make their digital services available over the public internet.

Closed programme

The Internet First programme is now closed. The Internet First policy mentioned below has been added to our architecture principles.

The Internet First policy states that all new health and social care digital services should be internet facing and existing services should be changed to be made available over the internet as soon as possible.

The policy applies to all health and social care digital services that present or expose services to end users or integrating systems outside of an internal network.

Internet First policy

Benefits of making services available Internet First

The public internet provides users with open access to web-based services that is not restricted by their location or their network connection. The benefits of publishing digital services on the internet include:

  • easier access to digital health and social care services, including remote working
  • it makes it easier for different digital services to work together
  • increased innovation by improving accessibility to other digital service providers
  • simpler connections for health and care organisations
  • new NHS and social care centres, such as field hospitals, can be set up more quickly

Users will still need to register and use a password so Internet First options are still secure. All security measures will be included at the digital service level, improving security.

NHS Digital's services

Many health and care services rely on integration with the systems and services that we provide.

The NHS Digital services that enable and support health and care include:

  • SPINE – by building the Spine Internet Gateway (along with the national API Management portal)
  • The Electronic Referral Service
  • The Care Identity Service (NHS Smartcard) by building NHS Identity
  • The NHS Data Landing Portal
  • NHSMail2 
  • The Electronic Prescription Service
  • The Summary Care Record Service
  • The Secondary Users Service2

We are working to make all NHS Digital services available over the public internet by March 2021.

Find out which NHS Digital services are already available over the public internet.

Who needs to act on Internet First

You should begin to make changes to become compliant with the Internet First policy if: 

  • you have digital services that need to be accessed by health and social care professionals and patients
  • you are accessing digital services that are dependent on the Central National Private Network (HSCN)
  • you are planning to develop or procure a new digital service

What you need to do

Our Internet First guidance will help you find out what you need to do to move your organisation, or the digital services you provide, towards being fully available over the public internet. It gives you the information you need to become compliant with the Internet First policy.

Go to the Internet First guidance

We have developed guidance for suppliers of digital services and the organisations that commission, procure or use them, technical guidance on the compulsory and recommended standards and requirements your services need to meet, and more detail on the background to Internet First.


Last edited: 6 February 2024 2:34 pm