Public Services > Healthcare

Health body opts for NHSmail2 accreditation over adoption

Neil Merrett Published 28 March 2017

Leicestershire-based group decides against migration to NHS e-mail solution, choosing instead to configure its in-house technology to a compatible standard that may serve as a model for other trusts

 

NHS Leicestershire Health Informatics Service (LHIS) has managed to gain NHSmail2 accreditation for its own local e-mail system without having to migrate to the system in a move it claims is a national first.

Working with NHS Digital, the organisation decided to obtain accreditation in place of a migration after deciding if was not yet right to move its informatics service over to NHSmail2.

Launched last year, NHSMail2 is intended to provide secure electronic mail to share identifiable patient data and other sensitive information among public healthcare bodies in England and Scotland.

NHS LHIS has said its work could potentially allow other healthcare organisations in the UK to overhaul the secure sharing of patient information in line with NHSmail2 standards.

A spokesperson for the organisation said it was not presently working with any other trusts on sharing its expertise, having only just gained the accreditation.

“However, we are keen to engage with other organisations in the near future,” added the spokesperson.

NHS LHIS head of service Ian Wakeford said that it had been vital to undertake the work to ensure the configuration of its e-mail system for hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland in order to ensure stable communication between the different organisations.

“The time was not yet right for us to move to NHSmail2 but we did want to take advantage of securely communicating with NHSmail2 users and beyond,” he said.

“Accreditation from NHS Digital to connect to NHSmail2 is allowing us to achieve the best of both worlds, not losing the local benefits we have developed over years, but combining that with being able to securely communicate with all of the NHS and government secure domains that NHSmail2 has connectivity to.”

According to the trust, the accreditation was gained through the use of existing internal expertise in areas such as ISO security, with NHS Digital procuring an external agency to undertake testing and validate LHIS’ work.

Cleveland Henry, NHS Digital programme director, said that despite extensive use across the health and care system, amounting to one million accounts, NHSmail was supported in a complex environment used by a number of different organisations.

Henry accepted that while viewed as an important national service for the NHS, the mail service was not always the first choice for care organisations to adopt.

“It has always been the aim of the NHSmail programme to ensure secure connectivity capability is in place to enable exchange of email between non-NHSmail users within the NHS and outside of the NHS,” he said. 

“With this in mind we developed the Secure Email Standard (ISB 1596), which seeks to establish the minimum requirements for email systems in health, public health and adult social care to support secure communications.”

Henry noted that it was this standard that had been achieved by LHIS, which it is hoped could serve as a model for other organisations and stakeholders to secure their own solutions against.

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