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Health and Social Care Network DPS goes live

David Bicknell Published 26 November 2017

CCS and NHS Digital developed HSCN Access Services dynamic purchasing system went live on Friday


The Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) Access Services dynamic purchasing system (DPS) has gone live with the process behind HSCN’s implementation seen as an exemplar for the eventual replacement of the public services network (PSN).

The HSCN Access Services DPS (RM3825) was developed by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) working with NHS Digital and industry and will be managed by the CCS Network Services team.

It is intended to provide a route to market for health, social care, and related customers, to procure access to the HSCN and can be used to procure connectivity, closely related services, and support with transition and implementation. Supplementary services able to be procured through the DPS include PSN connectivity, cloud access, ISP services, virtual routing and forwarding (VRF), network access and security, virtual private networks (VPN), firewalls, and intrusion prevention & detection.

The utilisation of a DPS means new suppliers can join at any time, by requesting to participate during the lifetime of the agreement.

Some believe the collaborative way HSCN itself and the HSCN Access Service DPS have been developed by CCS and NHS Digital offers the potential to replace PSN itself. Such a suggestion was made in a Q&A session at the recent Future of Public Sector Networks event in London.

Advocates for the DPS say it offers a number of key benefits for both customers and suppliers, including a “dynamic and competitive marketplace” and the opportunity to save money. Pricing for network connectivity has fallen significantly over the past ten years with the potential for public sector customers to realise savings of 50% or more when they refresh their connectivity, even if they are increasing bandwidth.

CCS expects to see similar savings for customers for HSCN connectivity, saying, “We have a significant amount of pricing information from our PSN Connectivity and Network Services frameworks and we’re well placed to monitor the pricing achieved under the HSCN Access Services DPS.”

CCS says NHS Digital has developed a robust compliance regime for suppliers of HSCN Access Services, with a variety of suppliers, both large and small, seeking to become HSCN-compliant.

One of those smaller suppliers relishing the potential opportunities being created by the new dynamic purchasing system’s flexibility is York-based Carelink, the healthcare business of Piksel, which has attained HSCN accreditation and named as a compliant Consumer Network Services Provider (CNSP).

In an interview, Darren Turner, Carelink’s general manager told Government Computing , “We do need a framework for HSCN which is a dynamic procurement service open at any time.”

Turner is complimentary about the efforts made by CCS and NHS Digital to create the new framework, efforts which have seen groups such as networking suppliers body Innopsis play a significant role in driving supplier feedback and comment on CCS’ proposals.

“To get a new framework in six months is quite extraordinary. I give them their due. There has been lots of engagement from NHS Digital and CCS. That’s really quite refreshing,” he says.

He has high hopes for HSCN and concurs with the network’s potential as PSN’s successor, as suggested at the Future of Public Sector Networks event in September. 

“I can see HSCN replacing PSN,” he says. “Local authorities will connect into the HSCN network and there is an opportunity for it to be an overarching local network, with local government, education, health etc all joined up through it.”

He argues that the new DPS for HSCN offers a way for CCS to test the water for a new dynamic system, rather than adopting a static framework. “Why not do it that way and have a supplier pitch up anytime when they in a position to deliver services, rather than shutting the door (of the framework) for the next four years? That is just about managing your workload.”

Turner believes HSCN has significant potential.”It is unlimited and uncapped. It is unconstrained and it can grow organically.”

And he says CCS is right to have got the HSCN Access Services DPS up and running, so that it can learn from those using it. “You cannot learn issues sitting in a darkened room. You have to have people use it and find out what the pitfalls are.”


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