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PSN: alive and kicking or dead in the water?

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Reports of the death of the Public Sector Network (PSN) appear to be greatly exaggerated. In fact, it appears that it has been granted a stay of execution. Last month the Government announced that the PSN will remain in place for another 12 months. The extension has been granted because the Crown Commercial Services (CCS) has been deluged with questions from suppliers considering tendering for business over the new Network Services Framework (NSF) that goes live in April.

For those who have never heard of it, the PSN is used by the public sector to gain access to IT services. It makes sense for the public sector to gain economies of scale by sourcing services collectively rather than building their own individual infrastructure - especially in an environment of public sector cut backs. The PSN has also proved invaluable to public sector IT departments wanting to gain safe and secure access to applications and services delivered by third party commercial organisations. Three years ago however the CCS decided that the public sector as a whole would be better served by one single network and took the decision to merge both of its IP networks: N3 - the IP network for the entire NHS; and PSN.

The decision to delay the transition to NSF by 12 months comes following consultation with both suppliers and buyers as both will feel the impact. In addition to answering all of the suppliers' questions, the feeling from suppliers and indeed buyers that we've spoken to is that the framework itself, and the process involved with the transition needs to be a little better defined so that suppliers really understand how to move vital services across without impacting delivery to the end user. These definitions need to be drafted in consultation with suppliers, procurement and end users to ensure that vital (and non vital) services aren't compromised.

As a supplier to both PSN and N3, and as a member of PSNGB - the steering committee consulting on the development of the networks - I do believe that the delay is necessary. This extension will provide a basis for further discussion and ensure a smooth transition. Slow and steady wins the race after all.

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