As of April this year, all health and care organisations will fully transition to the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN), leaving N3 a thing of IT past.
For over fifteen years, N3 has provided a secure and fast network which connected all NHS locations and millions of employees across the UK. However, the network is no longer fit for purpose, as it struggles to accommodate new technologies which the public sector should be embracing.
In 2015, NHS Digital announced its two year plan to modernise the NHS’s systems in order to enable collaboration and efficiency for all. While at the time it seemed like an adequate amount of time to prepare, the transition has soon crept up, leaving a number of organisations possibly unaware of the full impact of the changes – and how they could be reaping the benefits.
Introduction to HSCN
The HSCN is a new data network designed to enable regional collaboration, provide flexibility and increase reliability for health and social care organisations. It will support the transformation of the sector by moving away from single-supplier contracts, instead creating a competitive marketplace which facilitates customer choice. Ultimately – it will provide a higher level of service from what N3 could ever offer – and far more cost effectively.
Driving Cost Efficiency
Over time the N3 network grew increasingly complex and in turn became far more expensive to run, which eventually lead to its demise. The NHS desperately needed a solution to kick start transformation in the sector, which added better value for money and streamlined efficiency. HSCN will provide a more cost effective service for both suppliers and end users. Service providers can connect to the peering exchange, where multiple consumer network providers (CN-SPs) can interconnect their networks – heavily reducing delivery costs. With up-to-date systems that require little maintenance, HSCN will make it easier to meet patient demand and improve health and social care services while proving the best value for money.
Boosting Service Levels
The service level agreement for N3 services can vary, but the minimum requirement for NHS customers is currently 99.95 per cent, which is an average of 22 minutes downtime per month. These outages can have numerous causes: planned or emergency downtime for maintenance, a loss of power or an unintentional security breach by a third party. However, any downtime in a hospital trust can cause serious consequences for both the hospital and its patients. In extreme cases, it can lead to temporary hospital closure, forcing patients to move to another trust. This is not only disruptive to the patient needing care, but also costs valuable time and money which could be spent improving other areas. The implementation of HSCN however will provide a higher level of service to all connected trusts as it’s a far more reliable and proactive network. The need for one centralised ‘backbone’ network will be completely eliminated and instead will move to a local cloud, vastly reducing the amount of maintenance required and downtime experienced, while easing complexity.
Looking to the Future
The transition from N3 to HSCN is the beginning of an exciting future for the NHS but in the lead, up to the launch, there are some vital steps which software providers must take if they want to reap the rewards of the new network.
Suppliers currently selling to the public sector via the N3 need to work with a consumer network service provider, which will facilitate the move for them. For software providers interested in selling to the public sector but aren’t currently doing so, it is also vital to act now. These suppliers must move to the N3 network before the end of March to ensure they can quickly transition to HSCN once it is fully operating. Those who fail to do so could be left far behind their competition.
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