More than just mail – inside NHSmail’s O365 integration

Neil Bennett of NHS Digital details the organisation’s improvements to its communications and productivity tools

Credit: Adobe Stock/Sergey Nivens

Spring is finally in the air (notwithstanding any final encounter with the ‘Beast from the East’, or his extended family) and there are many things that are exciting me for the months ahead.

Jürgen Klopp appears to be making strides in plugging Liverpool’s leaky defence, my twin daughters are due to start primary school in September, and here at NHS Digital, we’re making some improvements to NHSmail over the coming months.

I was a part of the team that transitioned the NHSmail service from a Mirapoint platform to Microsoft Exchange 12 years ago. This was a significant step forward for the service, and it has held a special place in my heart ever since. 

It has continued to evolve to become one of the largest secure email services in the world, and one of the biggest success stories in the NHS Digital portfolio.

Over recent months we – and delivery partner Accenture – have made improvements to NHSmail’s security and stability as well as integrating with Skype for Business. So now is an exciting time for me to have recently taken on lead accountability for the service.

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I am also proud to have announced last month that we will be launching an NHSmail and Office 365 hybrid solution later this year.

But what does that mean, and why does it excite me? 

Well, it’s not news to any of us that increased collaboration both within the NHS and across wider health and care is essential if we are to address some of the challenges facing the system at present. 

The NHSmail/O365 hybrid is a piece of the jigsaw that will enable that collaboration to happen. 

It will provide single sign-on capability, enabling users to access their NHSmail account plus services such as OneDrive for Business, SharePoint Online, Teams, and Yammer with a single set of credentials. 

Users will then be able to share documents and access collaboration tools seamlessly with other users across the health and care system who are on the hybrid tenancy, or with users whose organisations have federated with NHSmail/O365.  

This will enable them to do things like create private Yammer groups for clinical disciplines to cross organisational boundaries and pool all their knowledge and experience. It will enable the creation of digital hubs for multi-organisation teams to work more efficiently, using multiple collaboration services in one place. 

Users will also be able to access other third-party applications using their NHSmail credentials if those applications are integrated with Azure Active Directory. Through the NHSmail portal, organisations will have access to administration features for O365 services such as assigning licences, enabling applications, and creating SharePoint sites.

If we couple these capabilities with the rollout of NHSmail across pharmacy, optometry, dentistry, and social care – all either delivered or in the near-term pipeline – then the possibilities for collaboration and increased productivity multiply significantly. 

Surely a reason to get excited, right?

Sam Trendall

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