Feeds

NHS orgs not keen on UK gov's mega-intranet

The other PSN also makes people nervous

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

NHS organisations in England are showing a reluctance to consider future use of the Public Service Network (PSN), according to officials and a supplier taking part in its early implementation.

Bringing healthcare bodies within the PSN – the "network of networks" for which the Cabinet Office recently launched the first procurements – is seen as a key factor in achieving its full potential. But concerns about security protocols, uncertainty over the reform of the NHS and uncertainty over the advantages of the N3 broadband network are all making IT chiefs reluctant to talk about hooking up to the network.

The issue was highlighted in a round table discussion on the PSN organised by networks provider Updata. Jeff Walbank, principal deployment officer of the Kent PSN, identified two major issues in encouraging its take-up by the NHS. One is that trusts are already obtaining network services through N3, which was constructed as part of England's NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT), and feel no immediate need to take on the extra costs of using the PSN. The other is that they have met the Information Government Statement of Compliance (IGSoC) to use N3, and would have to deal with another code of compliance to make connections with other public sector agencies.

"N3 is a PSN-compliant service, but the attitude is that it's not allowed if it's not from the NHS," he said. "As long as the Department of Health keeps subsidising healthcare-based networks that are only used by that community, it will be a barrier."

One of the big advantages claimed for the PSN is that it will support collaborative working in the public sector, but attitudes to data sharing in the NHS can be defensive, and this is undermining efforts to sell the advantages of the new network.

Other concerns derive from structural changes in the NHS. John Brown, the technical lead for the Yorkshire and Humberside PSN project, said primary care trusts are wary of getting into something while knowing they are unlikely to exist in 18 months. It was also pointed out that some hospitals have been built under private finance initiatives that include infrastructure and are subject to contracts with many years to run.

The effects of this were summed up by Richard Bennett, executive director of Updata, who said it is difficult to talk to NHS organisations about PSN networks because N3 provides their secure connections and the Department of Health meets much of the cost of using it. "The PSN seems to be gathering momentum, but because of N3 no-one in healthcare is embracing it. There is a danger it will be built without buy-in from healthcare."

Brown warned that the full cost savings will not be achieved unless there is take-up from the NHS. It is a big spender on networks and would help to provide the scale that would bring the full value to the PSN.

In response, Simon Norbury, the official for local government transition to the PSN in the Cabinet Office, said that the Cabinet Office is aware of the need to deal with the issue. "It's an issue to be rooted out, and we've been engaging with NPfIT and working on what it is local authorities and healthcare want from each other, and looking at how we might put it into the picture," he said. "The programme is about security and information assurance, not just rolling out the connections, and we need to take a series of steps to get to where we want to go."

He added: "The PSN is moving to begin to break these things down, and I think you will see them broken down over time. There is a need to get over these barriers."

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

More from The Register

next story
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.