What is HSCN? All you need to know on the Health & Social Care Network for NHS

To restore and improve collaboration and efficiency, NHS Digital, in 2015 embarked on a plan to modernise NHS systems by migrating from N3 to the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN).

After several years of planning and a few setbacks along the way, the destination is finally in view. In August 2020, N3 will officially be switched off and all health and care organisations must have migrated to HSCN. For over 15 years, N3 has provided a fast and secure network to connect all NHS locations and millions of employees across the UK. However, as new and helpful technologies continue to pop up, N3 has struggled to incorporate them making it not fit for purpose in the long run. To restore and improve collaboration and efficiency, NHS Digital, in 2015 embarked on a plan to modernise NHS systems by migrating from N3 to the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN).

As the deadline comes ever closer for the full migration to HSCN, a number of organisations are still unaware of the full impact of these changes and how to stand to benefit.

So, what is HSCN?

In short, HSCN is a new data network for health and care organisations designed to replace N3. It is designed to enable greater and more fluid regional collaboration, increase reliability and provide flexibility for health and social care organisations. The network fundamentally transforms the sector by creating a competitive marketplace which gives customers the freedom of choice, as opposed to the single supplier contracts that have existed in the past. Health and social care providers can now choose their network connectivity suppliers from a competitive marketplace and in collaboration with other health and social care organisations. Ultimately, this is intended to level off service in the sector and result in far more cost-efficiency.

How Does HSCN Work?

HSCN is an interoperable network of networks provided by multiple suppliers who comply with open and common standards and acts as a single network provided by multiple suppliers. This allows health and social care providers to share information and access services regardless of their network supplier or location.

Objectives of HSCN

HSCN is a critical step forward in the push to realising the vision of making digital health and care services widely available over the Internet. By providing both private and public connectivity over one connection, HSCN hopes to;

  • Help health and social care organisations move to Internet and cloud-based architectures
  • Provide highly improved access to critical digital services relied upon by health and care but which are not currently available over the Internet.
  • Help health and social care organisations protect themselves against network-related cybersecurity threats.

HSCN is designed to support the delivery of key health and social care initiatives such as NHS England Five Year Forward View, National Information Board ‘Paperless 2020’, Sustainability and Transformation Plans and Local Digital Maps. In this regard it will help in the following ways;

  • Establish network arrangements that support integration and transformation of health and care organisations, flexible work patterns and regional collaboration.
  • Enable reliable, safe, efficient and flexible sharing of information among health and care services
  • Create a competitive marketplace for network services. In turn, this will improve customer’s freedom of choice, deliver better value for money and enable organisations to easily and efficiently access faster, better and cheaper network connectivity services.
  • Improve collaboration between health and social care services by encouraging sharing and reusing existing services and infrastructure as well as reducing duplication.

Benefits of Joining HSCN

  • Improved ability to send and receive secure data between health and social care services as well as better service and information sharing.
  • Cheaper network connectivity and services than N3
  • Standardised networks
  • Simpler network Information Governance requirements
  • Better access to NHS Digital’s national applications which makes it easier to share care plans, confirm NHS numbers and access Summary Care Records.
  • Facilitate working together of staff across health and social care organisations.

How is HSCN Different from N3?

N3 was primarily designed as a single supplier service for NHS providers to access national applications. On the other hand, HSCN is designed to enable multiple suppliers to provide connectivity services in an integrated and rapidly evolving health and social care sector.

HSCN features comprehensive security monitoring and analysis functionality. This provides the capability to detect irregular traffic volumes almost in real-time and for prompt resolution. However, even though these features improve network security, NHS Digital emphasises that HSCN should not be considered a secure network. For this reason, all health and social care organisations connected to it must perform their own risk assessment and employ their own security controls to protect the data for they are responsible.

If you have been putting off migrating to HSCN, this is the right time to finally make the leap. However, as with any new technology, it is important to identify your initial and long-term requirements for the transformation. As you take the step to a more connected NHS, we can hold your hand and guide you as we offer dedicated connectivity to NHS organisations from a Stage 2 Compliant provider. Contact us today to learn more.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager