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HSCN, Internet first and the cloud

Topics: DrDoctor tech

What is HSCN

The Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) is the NHS’s private network previously called N3 and it frustrates me.

While it made sense in the past for organisations such as the NHS to have private wide area networks (WANs) with the spread of ubiquitous low-cost internet access, the need for WANs has all but disappeared.

Despite this NHS hangs on to its’ private network in the false belief that it provides resilience, security and value for money.

What is wrong with the HSCN

The NHS private network has in the past been used as an excuse for organisations to neglect the security of their applications in the belief that they don’t need to be concerned with security because they are only accessible on a secure private network.

That network also provides a barrier to innovation and hinders entrance of newcomers to the NHS technological market. It makes it hard for new entrants and allows incumbents to continue to deliver low quality products without competition from smaller, faster moving businesses.

The migration from the older N3 network to HSCN was intended to solve some of these issues by making to easier for organisations to get connections and open the market for more suppliers to offer services.

There are now around 20 suppliers of HSCN connections which is an improvement on N3. But getting a connection to HSCN still requires a lot more paperwork than your typical internet connection and is much more expensive. It also does not deal with the issue that many of the applications that run over it use it as an excuse to continue using old security practices.

What is the alternative

This is all changing with the recent announcement from Matt Hancock and NHS Digital of the NHS internet first policy, but many NHS organisations are still wary of using services over the internet preferring to stay with that well-known and trusted private network.

As a company providing digital services to NHS organisations, we need our services to be available on HSCN, utilise cloud services and be right at the front of that internet first policy, ready to deliver our services over the internet when the NHS is ready.

We have tackled this challenge using Azure services and ExpressRoute circuits to create an adaptable infrastructure that works for our clients both now and in the future.

In the next series of blog posts we’ll describe how we did it.