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A guide to the Health & Social Care Network

For the health sector, the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) is a crucial piece of technology facilitating their daily operations, the ability to innovate, or both! This article aims to demystify the HSCN, explore its benefits, and guide you on how to deploy and leverage this network.

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How Health and Social Care Can Thrive with the HSCN 

In November 2020, the Health & Social Care Network (HSCN) fully replaced the N3 as the NHS' new data network. The HSCN helps to integrate and transform health and social care services by providing a reliable method to access and share information. With the UK Government’s 2013 ‘Cloud First’ initiative instigating current ‘Cloud Appropriate’ industry discourse, and the NHS’ interoperability ambitions, the HSCN aims to allow easier and smoother access to clinical systems for the benefit of patients and organisations. 

What is the HSCN?

To understand the significance of the HSCN, let's take a step back and delve into its origins. The N3, operated by British Telecom (BT), served as the NHS's primary network for data sharing. However, due to concerns about cost, performance, and security, a more advanced solution was needed, leading to the birth of HSCN in 2015.

HSCN is an upgraded version of N3, offering a secure high-speed network designed to facilitate collaboration among hospitals, medical centres, and GPs. Unlike its predecessor, HSCN allows organisations to choose their network provider, fostering competition and providing a marketplace-like platform.

What Can I Reach on the HSCN?

The HSCN opens doors to a plethora of services, from essential NHS Digital applications like NHSmail to services such as SPINE, EMIS, and SystmOne. It serves as a rich community resource, essential for the daily operations and innovation of health organisations. Importantly, access to HSCN is not limited to NHS organisations; private IT Service Providers (ITSP), research companies, and charities can leverage the network for deeper collaboration with the UK's health landscape.

What are the Benefits of the HSCN Organisations in the Sector?

Simplified Connectivity

  • The HSCN offers a unified and secure platform for easy access to NHS Digital applications, fostering collaboration across departments and regions.

  • The network supports interoperability, promoting quick, efficient, and secure data sharing, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes.

Enhanced Security

  • The HSCN provides central services, including the Network Analytics Service and the NHS Secure Boundary internet filtering service, offering robust protection against network security threats.

  • The integration of a cloud-based Domain Name System (DNS) into the National Cyber Security Centre’s Protective DNS further enhances security, disrupting the use of DNS for malware distribution and operation.

Scalability and Flexibility

  • Connectivity to the HSCN allows organisations to operate rapidly and flexibly in a secure virtual environment, scaling quickly when needed.

  • Edge connectivity over any form of internet access provides flexibility in choosing providers and reduces potential costs and installation times compared to private pipes.

How Do I Get a HSCN Connection?

Now that the benefits are clear, let's discuss the practical steps to connect to HSCN.

  1. Find a Compliant Supplier

    Choosing a Consumer Network Service Provider (CN-SP) or Cloud Service Provider (CSP) is the first step. CN-SPs, like Cloud Gateway, offer 'pure pipes' HSCN connectivity, ensuring reliability and security through a detailed audit process.

  2. Understand HSCN Compliance Requirements

    HSCN compliance involves knowing your ODS code and obtaining a countersigned HSCN Connection Agreement from NHS Digital. An ODS code, unique to each organisation, is essential for accessing NHS Digital services. A full compliance guide can be found here.

  3. Determine the Cost of HSCN Connection

    The cost of an HSCN connection can vary, but it's crucial to consider the value and benefits it brings to your organisation. Evaluate different suppliers and choose one that aligns with your budget and requirements.

Summing Up

The HSCN is a critical part of healthcare IT infrastructure, offering private health and social care businesses a secure, flexible, and collaborative network. If you're still navigating the waters of HSCN and need assistance, Cloud Gateway is here to guide you on your journey to seamless connectivity.

For more information and frequently asked questions about HSCN, check out the further reading below.


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