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Creating a new NHS England: Health Education England, NHS Digital and NHS England have merged. More about the merger.

Reference guide

This reference guide provides information for our digital services. 

Direct care

Many of our services say they can only be used for 'direct care'. Direct care is defined in Information: To share or not to share? The Information Governance Review (opens as a PDF).

Specifically, it says:

Direct care: A clinical, social or public health activity concerned with the prevention, investigation and treatment of illness and the alleviation of suffering of individuals. It includes supporting individuals’ ability to function and improve their participation in life and society. It includes the assurance of safe and high quality care and treatment through local audit, the management of untoward or adverse incidents, person satisfaction including measurement of outcomes undertaken by one or more registered and regulated health or social care professionals and their team with whom the individual has a legitimate relationship for their care.

The restriction of a service to direct care can result from legal, policy or funding constraints:

  • NHS England can only act within its statutory powers (or ‘vires’). These can be explicitly set out in legislation or arise as result of 'directions', and can contain restrictions on the service scope.
  • If a service were to be used for something other than direct care, other considerations and service specific policies could apply, for example National Data Opt-out.
  • The funding for specific services may also be conditional on it being used for direct care.

Service levels

Each of our digital services has a service level which defines how available it is and how quickly we fix issues.

Whilst we expect to meet these service levels, they are not guaranteed, and we will not be liable to you if we do not meet them.

The service levels are as follows:

Characteristic Bronze

Silver /
Silver Plus*

Gold Platinum /
Platinum Plus
Operational hours 8am to 6pm,
Monday to Friday
bank holidays
(expected minimum,
with many APIs available
outside business hours)
24 hours a day, 365 days a year
24 hours a day, 365 days a year
24 hours a day, 365 days a year
Supported hours 8am to 6pm,
Monday to Friday
bank holidays
8am to 6pm,
Monday to Friday
bank holidays
24 hours a day, 365 days a year
24 hours a day, 365 days a year
(in supported hours)
98% 99.50% 99.90%

99.90% (Platinum)

99.99% (Platinum Plus)

Incident resolution times (in supported hours)
Severity 1 8 hours 4 hours 4 hours 2 hours
Severity 2 16 hours 8 hours 8 hours 4 hours
Severity 3 40 hours 20 hours 10 hours 8 hours
Severity 4 120 hours 80 hours 50 hours 30 hours
Severity 5 240 hours 200 hours 140 hours 100 hours

* Silver Plus we respond to severity 1 and severity 2 incidents outside of business hours (8am to 6pm Monday to Friday excluding Bank Holidays).

Service types

Our service catalogue includes a few different types of entry, as explained below.


An individual service:

  • helps a user achieve an outcome
  • usually has a single service owner

Services typically consist of:

  • digital (IT) assets - sometimes called products or sub-services
  • people - for example to run the service or manage onboarding

As you might expect, most of our services are digitally driven, but a few of them are primarily human-powered.

See all individual services.

Service groups

A service group is a set of related services, such as screening services.

The services within the group are usually also listed individually within the catalogue.

See all service groups.


A programme is a team of people that is delivering some kind of change to the health and social care system in England.

We only include a programme in the catalogue if it is delivering change directly to the broader health and social care system - if a programme is delivering a new national service, we include the service in the catalogue, not the programme.

See all programmes.


We tag our digital services with a status as follows:

  • in development - the service is in progress - specifications might be available and any APIs might be available for early testing
  • beta - the service is available for live use, but is still being worked on to make sure it is fit for purpose
  • live - the service is out of beta - ongoing improvements might still happen
  • deprecated - the service is still live but is planned for retirement
  • retired - the service is no longer available


Last edited: 27 September 2023 11:08 am