Currently, the only way to authenticate users is over an HSCN connection using a smartcard. NHS Identity will be available over the internet which will enable access where an N3 connection is not available and open up use of services to a range of smaller organisations.
Additionally, the service will be available to authenticate with a range of alternative devices as well as Smartcards. This will help users who are mobile as they will still be able to access clinical information at the point of need.
The system also supports federation of identity – meaning that all the systems that use the national identity will be able to log in once (for all). NHS Identity will also cater for scale and simplify management with one central service to store authentication and access rules.
The primary objectives of NHS Identity are to provide:
- a sufficient level of assurance that the user is who they say they are for the sensitivity of digital information they are accessing
- a trusted secure token representing the user’s national digital identity in an industry recognised format
- a frictionless sign-on process that aligns to the user working patterns, only asking for additional action when necessary - a single sign-on is the target
- support for all IT platforms and devices such as a PC, laptop, tablet, phone or wearables
- interaction with the service from any UK based location (HSCN connection not required)
- to be available 24/7, 365 days a year
- to abstract identity and access into a cloud service that can be easily consumed by many client applications and services no matter what language they are written in and to shield those clients from any changes that happen in that service
- protection for national services ensuring the requester has legitimate rights to the resources requested
- facilitate flexible, easier ways for authentication by providing alternatives to smartcards.
The NHS Identity service is currently being run as a Beta service in production.
The diagram below shows the various mechanisms currently on the NHS Identity roadmap.