Interviews

26.06.17

HSCN: The enabler for a more joined-up public sector

Source: PSE Jun/Jul 17

Mark Hall, Chief Assurance Officer at Redcentric, discusses NHS Digital’s project, the new Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) and what benefits it will deliver when it replaces the N3 national private network.

In short, HSCN is the new data network for health and care organisations replacing the existing N3 private network, and has been designed to support the delivery of key initiatives such as ‘paperless by 2020’, the NHS Five Year Forward View, sustainability and transformation plans and local digital roadmaps. 

NHS Digital has heralded it as being a network to support collaboration, enabling the safe and reliable sharing of information between health and social care, while developing and creating a competitive marketplace for network services. 

Although the N3 replacement has been a long time coming, with several iterations mooted in the past, Mark Hall, Chief Assurance Officer at Redcentric, said that as time moves on, “HSCN can be the enabler for a more joined-up public sector, regardless of whether you are healthcare, social care or education”. 

He added that, as well as significant cost savings for consumers and the NHS, another advantage of HSCN is that it could give health and public sector organisations sharing data “a greater and all-round insight into those that they are treating”. 

“For example, if the council has a care plan in place for a person, it might say they have to do certain exercises,” explained Hall. “But social care hasn’t typically had access to what medications are in play, who a person’s GP is or what special clinical conditions they should be aware of. 

“If you bring the two together, so the local council not only looks at the individual’s mental state or welfare but also the health picture, you have a more joined-up service for a patient. This is not only about being clinical in nature, but allows plans to be tailored to meet individual requirements.” 

For over 15 years, N3 has supported a fast and reliable broadband connection for NHS organisations. But NHS Digital claims that the new standards-based network is designed to meet the requirements of an integrated health and social care sector while enabling multiple suppliers to provide connectivity services. 

“HSCN is an enabler to support the next-generation of overlay services, such as cloud hosting and telephony. Although N3 does support overlay services, they are not optimal when compared to HSCN as the new network has been designed to support overlay services from end-to-end,” Hall told PSE. 

Peering exchange 

In January, Redcentric was awarded the HSCN peering exchange contract for three years, with the potential for an extension. The peering exchange, which sits at the heart of the network, allows “multiple community network service providers (CN-SPs) to supply connectivity to NHS end-users and to interconnect their networks at multiple peering exchange points, forming a single logical network”. 

The peering exchange, noted Hall, will act as a super switch, and will form the core of the network where everything comes in, from internet through to monitoring services. 

At the end of March this year N3 finally expired, with a Transition Network being put in place to provide a stable platform from which to move legacy N3 services to HSCN. According to NHS Digital, this will reduce in size and cost as services are moved to HSCN, until it is no longer required. 

HSCN migration plans 

Discussing the migration plans, Hall told us: “Peering exchange will go live on 3 June. By live, it will be functional, operational and assured. From that point in time, you will see CN-SPs and the Transition Network connect in. Then there is a period of proof-of-concept testing. 

“In September this year, the first tranche of early adopters will be connected to the network. If they are an early adopter, they will be connected in September, October or November – depending on which wave they are in.” Full migration will commence after this. The Transition Network will then be decommissioned by 31 March 2020. However, it could be before then. 

Network of networks 

Comparing the two networks, Hall reflected that HSCN is different because it will be an interoperable ‘network of networks’ provided by multiple suppliers who will adhere to common and open standards. 

“For me to connect to N3 today, I have to go through quite a laborious assurance process. It is quite long and latent. It is also difficult,” he said. “Under HSCN, that has been significantly ‘enhanced’ – note, I didn’t say easier – to make it easier for consumers to follow. Also, the CN-SPs, of which Redcentric is one, will provide a lot of the assistance for the applicant to connect into the HSCN network.” 

He added that ten years after N3 went live there were still some N2 connections in the ether, whereas the transition from “N3 to HSCN is going to be much shorter”. 

“It has been planned for years and it is going to happen a lot quicker and more effectively,” Hall reassured us, adding that suppliers currently selling to the public sector via the N3 network need to work with a CN-SP, who will facilitate the move for them. 

NHS Digital added that it has worked with network suppliers to create standards and a compliance process that won’t require major investment to adhere to, “maximising supplier participation”. 

Reflecting on the new role for CN-SPs, Hall said: “For some of them it will be new territory, something they haven’t done before. From Redcentric’s point of view, we have been providing assured services for fifteen to sixteen years so it is no different to us. We will provide the same level of service, expertise and end-to-end service for our customers.” 

The assurance process, however, hasn’t just been designed for HSCN, he noted; it has been designed to accommodate the adoption of more internet-type services. 

“Redcentric will be offering services over the HSCN, which we know meet or exceeds the requirements set forth by NHS Digital. Our portfolio which is listed under three verticals ‘Cloud, Communication and Connectivity’ has been designed and are being fully assured to be delivered over HSCN.” 

Hall concluded that a great deal of time has been extended by the health authority and industry to ensure that “what is going into place with HSCN certainly meets today’s requirements for all types, whether you are patient, social or healthcare, and it is fit for purpose throughout the entire contract”.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

On how Redcentric can help you transition to HSCN, contact:

T: 0808 164 3515

E: HSCN@redcentricplc.com

W: www.redcentricplc.com/publicsector

Comments

Peter   10/07/2017 at 12:40

HSCN is a great step forward in joining up the Health / Care sector to provide effective and efficient services for people across all services. There are two dependencies : a) NHS digital have to allow Local Government Networks to connect directly to this new network on the basis of their PSN accreditation and NHS Toolkit compliance and not requires another specific Code of Connection. b) NHS Digital, NHS England, the NDG and IGA need to get together and define an Information Governance framework on the back of the EU-GDPR to allow the data to flow more freely around the system. Without meeting these pre-requisites data will continue to reside inside the NHS and the aspiration of a joined up Health / Social Care system will not realise the potential efficiencies.

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