HSCN Access Framework: The Supplier Perspective

The NHS Digital new Health and Social Care Network comes into force replacing N3. We reported on the transition in Public Spend Forum Europe. We now have a perspective on what that means for buyers and suppliers. Yesterday we ran a post from Innopsis about the benefits for buyers. Today we have a view from the supplier side: Darren Turner, General Manager of Carelink, the healthcare division of Piksel and provider of managed network and infrastructure services to health and social care providers, explains how the development of the new RM3825 framework is a positive shift for suppliers and their ability to list their solutions immediately.

Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has established a procurement process for network services for the new Health and Social Care Network (HSCN). It is setting up a new framework, RM3825, which will operate as a Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS), where new suppliers can join at any time after it has gone into operation. It will be open to all public sector bodies who wish to procure HSCN services, reflecting the intent to make the new network more widely used than its predecessor, N3, and for it to facilitate multi-agency collaboration across health and social care providers.

This is positive for small businesses who were previously locked out of static framework agreements that only open to new applicants every four years or so.  Dynamic Purchasing Systems offer a solution, because new suppliers can join the system throughout its life, provided that they meet the minimum selection standards and criteria.

With HSCN, there was another problem: what do you do when a supplier can only supply services once they achieve compliance and different suppliers will achieve compliance at differing times over perhaps a several-year period?

In short, there needed to be a way to allow suppliers to join in when they are ready and a DPS achieves that.

The ability to introduce new suppliers when they’re ready creates a dynamic marketplace which is good for the public sector. In terms of security, the old N3 network, which was provided by a single supplier, BT, was arguably more open to risk and attack because of its single supplier provision. HSCN, provided by a supplier community, will be less prone to extensive compromise; the diversity of suppliers reduces the impact of malicious attack and makes widespread disruption much less likely.

We certainly welcome the creation of the RM3825, and applaud CCS’ engagement with the industry in developing a mechanism that is fit for purpose. We had some early concerns that the existing framework for network services – RM1045 – may be used for HSCN procurement and that this static framework, which does not allow for regular new entrants, could constrain the supplier landscape and effectively recreate the monopoly for network services from which HSCN is looking to move away.

So, it is extremely positive that CCS and NHS Digital have heard these concerns, carried out in-depth consultation with industry and expedited the rollout of RM3825 in such a short time scale, creating a DPS framework for suppliers to join at any time.

We reached HSCN stage 1 compliance back in August and was one of the first suppliers to be recognised as a Consumer Network Service Provider (CN-SP). We hope, and expect, to achieve HSCN stage 2 compliance around mid-December and look forward to being in a position to stand up our HSCN-compliant connectivity services in a health and social care environment by the end of the year.

First of all though, the RM3825 framework is expected to go live towards the end of November and we will begin to process our application to see our network, infrastructure platforms and solutions listed immediately.

At Carelink, we believe that innovation goes hand in hand with digital transformation and that transformation starts with having the right connectivity – namely, the right network and infrastructure in place. Recognising this, the new HSCN will certainly drive greater innovation in healthcare, which is absolutely vital to help stratify populations, manage patient demand and tear down the barriers to integrated care.


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