Health and Social Care Network

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The Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) is a standards-based network that is replacing the N3 network in the National Health Service (NHS) in England. It went live in April 2017 and transition is expected to have been completed by March 2019.



NHSnet was a private wide area network service used by the NHS England.[1] It started operation in around 1995[2]

NHSnet was managed jointly by BT and Cable & Wireless and was developed under the aegis of the NHS Information Authority. However the standards of service varied widely throughout the NHS due to different local practices and levels of equipment. NHSnet was succeeded by N3 in 2006.[3] It is sometimes referred to (by a sort of retrospective nomination) as "N2".

Connections to NHSnet were strictly controlled by the NHS Information Authority, which specified the security required and data protocols allowed under its 'Code of Connect' agreements[citation needed]. Similarly, it controlled access to or from the Internet, including email, through managed gateways.

Organisations wishing to provide information or applications to their NHS partners over NHSnet had a choice of applying for their own Code of Connection, which required a considerable investment in time (typically 6 months), effort and infrastructure; or partnering with one of the restricted number of organisations (BT, Cable and Wireless and Ioko) able to use their own Code of Connect for these purposes[citation needed].

NHSnet admin passwords were exposed, during the attack of Lulzsec in June 2011.[4]


N3 (NHS) logo.png
Typedata and voice
Current statusoperational

N3 is a national broadband network for the English National Health Service (NHS), connecting all NHS locations and 1.3 million employees across England. As of 2018 it is being phased out. In 2004, BT was awarded the contract to deliver and manage the IT project on behalf of the NHS.[5] N3 was preceded by NHSnet, becoming N3 in 2006.[6]

N3 provides the foundations to deliver other components of the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) such as Choose and Book, the NHS Care Records Service, Electronic Prescriptions and the NHS Picture Archiving and Communications System.[7]

Technical details[edit]

N3 runs over a high-speed IP-based virtual private network. It links acute hospitals and GP surgeries in England through 58 points of presence (POPs), and also has a further five POPs in Scotland. N3 is fully resilient at backbone and POP level, enabling 100% core network service availability. The standardised national infrastructure will enable the rollout of 21st Century healthcare IT applications and the next generation of IP-based converged communications solutions.[citation needed]

Compliance with ISO 20000, and ITIL compliant.[citation needed]

A range of N3 hosting providers can provide Information Governance Statement of Compliance (IG SoC) accredited, secure, third party application hosting services. Providers can also act in an advisory capacity to organisations wishing to offer bespoke applications to the NHS.


In March 2007, N3’s Voice Services were launched. These services offer free on-net calls, and potential to reduce fixed-to-mobile costs. [8]

As the N3 Service Provider (N3SP), BT works with NHS Connecting for Health (NHS CFH) to support the delivery of the NPfIT, and develop products and services to capitalise on N3’s state-of-the-art capabilities.[citation needed]

The N3 network enables the user to access NHS Wide Web (nww) prefixed sites, as well as www.[9]


HSCN, delivered by multiple suppliers adhering to an agreed set of standards, is intended to progressively replace the N3 national healthcare network.[10][11] The N3 data and voice networking contracts expired in March 2017.[12] NHS Digital looked to replace a long-term single supplier contract with a marketplace of network options.[13] The project for a new network was initially known as the Public Services Network for Health.[14] In January 2017, the managed services provider Redcentric was appointed for a three-year period as the peering exchange provider.[15] NHS Digital have also contracted with BT for the provision of transition network arrangements for the two to three years from April 2017.[16] It is anticipated that the transition from the N3 network will be complete by March 2019.[17]


  1. ^ "Background to N3 - The National Network". NHS Connecting for Health. Archived from the original on 26 September 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Total charges for use of NHSnet between 1995-6 and 1999-2000". BMJ. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  3. ^ "NHSnet: the Closure Countdown". N3. Archived from the original on 12 November 2008. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  4. ^ "Hackers warn NHS over security". BBC News. BBC. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  5. ^ "DoH extends BT N3 deal". The Guardian. 20 December 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  6. ^ "NhsNet Closure". Archived from the original on 2 February 2007. Retrieved 15 January 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  7. ^ "NHS Connecting for Health - Background to N3". Retrieved 27 February 2009.
  8. ^ N3 Voice Services
  9. ^ "Namespace policy". NHS Digital. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  10. ^ Hall, Mark (9 February 2016). "Communicating HSCN: Why the government must act now". government computing.
  11. ^ "HSCN Transition". Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  12. ^ Scroxton, Alex (14 September 2016). "NHS trusts and suppliers not ready for end of N3 network". Computer Weekly. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  13. ^ Hill, Rebecca (30 January 2017). "Redcentric awarded three-year Health and Social Care Network contract". Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  14. ^ "Health and Social Care Network briefing with HSCIC". Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  15. ^ Scroxton, Alex (27 January 2017). "NHS Digital picks peering exchange provider for HSCN". Computer Weekly. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  16. ^ "HSCN Transition". Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  17. ^ "HSCN (Health and Social Care Network)". Retrieved 14 May 2017.

External links[edit]