Andy Hunter, Technical Director, explains how health and social care organisations will benefit from the new Health and Social Care Network

Every organisation relies on the collection, storage and sharing of data, and technology can help us to transform the way services are delivered. Nowhere more so than in the healthcare sector.

This year sees big new opportunities on the horizon for both NHS and commercial health and social care organisations, with the introduction of a new UK-wide communications network specifically for the sector.

The NHS is going through a period of massive change, with increasing operational stress and a raft of technological issues including compliance, data continuity and a reliance on ICT infrastructures approaching end of useful life.

The plan to replace N3, the virtual private network that connects around 1.3 million NHS staff, with the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) is just one of the moves by the Department of Health and Social Care to improve services through more collaborative working, and underpin safe, flexible and efficient information sharing.

N3 was previously monopolised by the large carriers, particularly BT, however HSCN opens up the market to allow organisations the freedom to choose their own connectivity services partner.

The new network goes further than N3, which connected NHS Trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups, hospitals and GP practices, by allowing commercial health and social care providers such as pharmacies, dentists, opticians and even care homes and social housing providers to access the network and share information.

HSCN is designed to underpin the digital transformation of NHS services and is one of the biggest step changes in the delivery of health and social care services in decades.

We are delighted to be flying the flag for the region as the only North East based ICT experts to receive approval from NHS Digital. It puts us in a select group of major players and comes after months of effort going through the rigorous vetting process.

Alongside assessing our technical capabilities and track record in delivering complex ICT solutions, the audit paid particular attention to our own core infrastructure, which all potential Stage 2 suppliers must have in place in order to be considered.

We were able to demonstrate that our multi-million pound peer to peer, high speed communications infrastructure across the UK and our North East data centre, and the wraparound services that support it, actually goes above and beyond NHS Digital’s requirements.

We are pleased to see HSCN open up a competitive market for the supply of ICT services. It will enable health and social care organisations to more easily access better, faster and cheaper network telecommunications services. It will also reduce duplication and improve collaboration, enabling them to reuse and share existing network infrastructure and services.

Our ethos is to put clients in control and deliver better value for money, whatever the sector and the situation. The bottom line is that HSCN will have a positive impact on patient care, which will ultimately benefit all our lives.