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Got burning questions about the Health and Social Care Network? In this blog, we answer your top 5 HSCN FAQs.

Knowledge Centre
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1. What is the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN)?

First, a short history lesson. In the beginning, there was the N3. Operated by British Telecom, the N3 was a network used by the NHS to connect locations and employees together using broadband. Its design was to facilitate data sharing across the NHS, including patient records. Over time, N3 became impractical for the long term thanks to cost, performance and security concerns.

Enter, the HSCN. Launched in 2015, the HSCN is essentially an upgraded form of the N3. It is intended to provide a solution for hospitals, medical centres and GPs to collaborate and access services over a single, secure high-speed network.

Unlike N3 which was solely run by BT, the HSCN gives customers a choice over who they want their network provider to be. It also promotes choice and competition across the health services available on the HSCN. It is seen more like a marketplace or platform than a standard network.

2. What can I reach on the HSCN?

The HSCN allows organisations to access a wide range of services, from essential NHS Digital applications like NHSmail, to services like SPINE, EMIS and SystmOne. It’s a rich community of resources which for many health organisations, is essential to their daily operations, their ability to innovate, or both!

Access to the HSCN is not just limited to NHS organisations. Private IT Service Providers (ITSP) can use the HSCN to make their software available to the wider health community. It is also used by research companies and charities to gain insight into the state of UK health.

3. What is the HSCN compliance process?

The two key aspects of HSCN compliance are to know your ODS code, and obtain a countersigned HSCN Connection Agreement from NHS Digital.

An ODS code is a unique code created by the Organisation Data Service within NHS Digital, used to identify organisations across health and social care. An ODS code is needed to access a range of NHS Digital services including the HSCN. Many public health organisations will already have an ODS code, it’s just a matter of searching the database to find it.

The HSCN Connection Agreement (CA) is a promise that you will use the HSCN for the purpose it was intended, and that you will follow information governance standards and data security best practice. More detailed information about the compliance process can be found in our full FAQ directory.

4. How do I find a HSCN supplier?

There are two types of supplier that can provide a connection to the HSCN; Consumer Network Service Providers (CN-SP), and Cloud Service Providers (CSP).

CN-SPs are suppliers, like Cloud Gateway, who are permitted by NHS Digital to sell ‘pure pipes’ HSCN Connectivity. Our accreditation involves a detailed audit process, to ensure the network and service management processes are reliable and secure. There are currently just over 20 CN-SP providers listed on the NHS Digital website.

CSPs are suppliers that have their own HSCN Connection and build some kind of value-add service or software on top. Customers who purchase from a CSP must buy the connected service and share the CSP’s HSCN connection, rather than buy an HSCN connection for themselves.

5. What HSCN services do Cloud Gateway offer?

Cloud Gateway can connect your organisation to the HSCN in a number of ways, here are the services we offer:

  • Health Connect: Remote Access to HSCN

  • Health Connect: Site VPN to HSCN

  • Health Connect: Cloud to HSCN

  • PRISM: The UK’s first SASE Platform

You may notice that the list of CN-SPs predominantly consists of large telecommunications companies. We generally find that they can be expensive, slow to deploy, and offer customer service that leaves something to be desired. 

At Cloud Gateway, we differentiate ourselves by being able to deploy connections both affordably and rapidly (within 5 working days). Our solutions are supported by a responsive and friendly managed service.

More information can be found on the health section of our website, here


Download our latest A Rough Guide to SASE ebook.

By way of an introduction, we have launched our Rough Guide to SASE ebook showcasing the different component parts of the framework and providing an explanation of the value and benefit they can deliver for your organisation.