NHS’s £500m HSCN deal goes live with nine suppliers

Written by Sam Trendall on 24 November 2017 in News

Nonet of firms become first providers to be added to dynamic purchasing system for NHS’s new network

The £500m dynamic purchasing system allowing NHS bodies to get access to the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) has gone live today with nine suppliers.

NHS bodies can now use the DPS to acquire a range of different connectivity options allowing them to access HSCN services. To gain a place on the system, suppliers must have achieved stage 1 compliance, a benchmark which certifies that the company in question “meets the obligations and adheres to the standards set out by NHS Digital”. 

Of the 16 firms that have obtained stage 1 compliance, nine have so far been appointed to the DPS:  Adept Telecom; Carelink; Convergence Group; Exponential-e; Level 3 Communications; MLL Telecom; The Networking People; NYnet; and Redcentric – the company that provided the peering exchange on which HSCN is built.

To begin delivering HSCN connectivity services to NHS customers, companies must be certified as stage 2 compliant, a process that involves an on-the-ground technical assessment by NHS Digital. So far only three providers – Convergence Group, MLL Telecom, and Redcentric – have gained stage 2 compliance.

HSCN replaces the NHS’s previous N3 network, for which services were supplied solely by BT. With HSCN, NHS bodies can procure connectivity services from a wide range of suppliers, and can buy in isolation or work with peers to aggregate demand. There is also an option to ask NHS Digital to lead the procurement process.

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Unlike a traditional static framework, a DPS model allows for new suppliers to be added throughout the life of the contract.

Dermot Ryan, HSCN programme director at NHS Digital, said: “Creating a competitive market for network services in health and social care, to drive both product innovation and value for money, has been an ambition of the HSCN programme since the outset.  Working in partnership with Crown Commercial Service, the establishment of the HSCN dynamic purchasing system is a significant part of realising this ambition. The DPS will promote the formation of a thriving market in HSCN services, and provide health and social care customers with an easy to use, low-risk way of procuring compliant services.”

The DPS is currently scheduled to run for 78 months, and carries an estimated value of £500m. It offers a range of connectivity options, including both managed and unmanaged connections, covering terrestrial, wireless, and satellite technology, and a variety of flexible bandwidth options. In addition, “supplementary components” of the DPS could include cloud services and consultancy. 

Darren Turner, general manager at Carelink, told PublicTechnology that he expected NHS bodies to embrace HSCN “for two reasons”.

“Primarily – and this is always the most important thing – from a cost perspective, bandwidth on the N3 network was horrendously expensive by modern standards,” he said. “There will be significant cost savings with HSCN, so you can afford to have [more] capacity.”

Turner added: “Also, in the past, we have seen things fail because they have been issued by central diktat. Here, there has been a lot more engagement with [customers] and an emphasis on teaming up with industry.”

The HSCN network went live earlier this year. Its predecessor has been in operation since 2004.


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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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