Public Services > Healthcare

CCS issues Health and Social Care Network data access pre-tender

Neil Merrett Published 08 May 2017

Proposed framework agreement valued at £800m is expected to be published in early July in order to support connectivity to multi-supplier solution replacing N3 health network


The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has issued a pre-tender to set out needs for data access services that will support connection to the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) and related telecommunication services.

Valued at £800m, the prior information notice (PIN) seeks supplier interest to help define a framework that will provide services that meet HSCN compliance standards across an as yet to be defined series of lots.

HSCN, which went live in late March, will replace the existing N3 service that was implemented over a decade ago to connect healthcare bodies across England and intended to expire on April 1 this year.  However, it is understood that an indefinite transition period is currently in place while all existing services handled through N3 are switched to HSCN to ensure a smoother approach to transformation.

The aim of the new agreement will be to move away from the N3 single supplier model approach by creating a multi-vendor marketplace for more disaggregated network services.

With a contract award anticipated on July 1, the proposed access services agreement (RM3825) for HSCN will connect health and social care providers to the new network amidst ongoing work to more closely integrate their systems.

“CCS intends to establish an agreement for use by or on behalf of UK public sector bodies who have a need for the provision of data access services, to facilitate connectivity to the HSCN and additional telecommunication and network services, to be determined,” said the notice.

“Non public sector entities may also use the agreement in order to satisfy contractual obligations to one or more public sector bodies, all of which are entitled to use the framework agreement on their own account.”

Work around finalising HSCN comes at a time where NHS England is committed to setting out 44 regional Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) across the country to set out a clearer strategic direction and funding plan to integrate and overhaul UK health and social care services.

This will help meet the organisation’s Five Year Forward View strategy, which has been recently updated to focus on the delivery and implementation of key integration aims.

However, the effectiveness of current digital leadership and funding commitments by government to support integrated care has come under parliamentary and industry scrutiny in recent months over fears about long-term sustainability in the delivery of NHS and local government services.

In January, three key Whitehall select committees jointly urged MPs to reach a new cross-party agreement on health and social care funding in a letter that called for an urgent parliamentary review to tackle spending that was viewed as increasingly insufficient.

In planning future government spending, the committees highlighted a need to swiftly prepare for a renewed focus on integrated care reform.

"We also feel that the ongoing separation of health and social care is creating difficulties for individuals and avoidable barriers and inefficiencies. Any review should cover the two systems," the MPs added.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers - a trade association for NHS acute, ambulance and mental health services – told the Public Accounts Committee at the time that further issues and delays were expected with STP implementation.

“The STPs are just a localised reflection of the gap that we have at the national level, so you might argue that effectively, all we have done is parcelled up a national gap and asked a whole bunch of local systems -- 44 systems -- to try to come up with a local answer to their share of the national gap. Not entirely surprisingly, it is proving to be a very difficult task," he said.

Related articles:

Users, vendors and GDS consider life after PSN

HSCN compliance checks to commence as N3 termination nears

Communicating HSCN: Why the government must act now

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