A new data network developed by Leeds-based NHS Digital is set to provide seamless connectivity to vital computer systems for health and social care organisations.
The Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) will enable NHS organisations to access national and regional healthcare systems and to share information.
The HSCN, which is replacing the 13-year-old N3 network, is designed to help health bodies provide more joined up services for patients.
Dermot Ryan, programme director at NHS Digital for the HSCN, told Digital City: “Achieving a truly digital health and social care system is a huge challenge.
“It’s not only about encouraging NHS and social care organisations to embrace technology, but also ensuring we have the right infrastructure in place to put this vision into practice.
“This is all set against a backdrop of efficiency savings, increasing demand and cyber attacks.
“HSCN is helping health and social care providers face up to this challenge by helping them to access and exchange information reliably, efficiently and conveniently.
“It will allow organisations to access and share information electronically – nationally, regionally and locally – in support of integrated services.”
HSCN will provide high performance private network connectivity, which is needed to access and run applications and systems such as the NHS Spine, a crucial health service communication tool. Health and social care organisations using HSCN will benefit from greater protection against cyber threats thanks to a series of security features which monitor the network and scan for threats coming from the internet.
There will also be a reduction in costs as the HSCN will create a competitive marketplace for connectivity services.
Dermot said: “Instead of one contract with one supplier, we have created a vibrant marketplace with multiple suppliers which local organisations can choose from to best suit their needs.
“This will help drive down costs, increase innovation, improve access and help information to be shared, regardless of location or network supplier.”
HSCN is currently being piloted and the first NHS organisations will connect to the live network in the autumn.
In Yorkshire and the Humber, a partnership of health and other public sector organisations, such as local councils and emergency services, is collaborating to procure HSCN across the region.
The new network is one of an array of hi-tech projects developed by NHS Digital, which aims to use information and technology to improve people’s lives.
The organisation has four sites in Leeds and employs around 2,000 people in the city.
Among its recent achievements are the introduction of an e-referrals system as well as the Electronic Prescription Service, which allows prescriptions to be sent direct to pharmacies from GP surgeries.
Ongoing projects include the rollout of free WiFi across the NHS, with the service already running at 1,000 GP practices. NHS Digital also collects health and social care statistics, including data on the NHS workforce and hospital admissions.
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The platform aims to highlight the giant strides being made by a sector that boasts around 3,000 organisations in Leeds.