NHS Digital and Crown Commercial Service (CCS) collaborated to create an agreement to help NHS organisations transition to a new network while saving money and generating additional benefits.

The requirement

The NHS, along with other health and social care organisations, needs to access and share information reliably, flexibly and efficiently in order to carry out frontline services effectively. Previously, the ability to do this was delivered through N3, a long standing single-supplier national broadband network which was expiring and no longer fit for purpose due to the increased demand on the network. The solution identified to meet the new requirement was the creation of the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN). NHS Digital’s objectives were to:

  • create a competitive multi-vendor marketplace
  • transform to a state delivering 35% cost reductions
  • move from centralised funding to a devolved funding model

NHS Digital was tasked with helping to migrate 14,000 network connections – the largest ever network migration in Europe – from N3 to a new competitive multi-vendor marketplace capable of delivering improved bandwidth with improved interoperability. This included remote consultations between hospitals via video conferencing, and simpler access to cloud-based services supporting key initiatives like ‘The NHS Long Term Plan’.

The solution

The Network Services team at Crown Commercial Service collaborated with NHS Digital to create a new commercial agreement – the Health and Social Care Network Dynamic Purchasing System (HSCN DPS) – to enable health and social care organisations to procure HSCN connectivity and services.

Working closely with NHS Digital, industry bodies, and stakeholders, CCS delivered the HSCN DPS, a compliant, quick, and easy route to market for health and social care organisations delivered within the agreed programme timescales. Access to support from procurement experts with contractual terms and key performance indicators that meet NHS requirements was also provided.

The migration timescales required NHS organisations to take action quickly. NHS Digital and CCS worked closely with NHS organisations across the country to assess their needs, understand their contractual landscape and aggregate the demand into regional groups. The required volumes generated by combining the needs of multiple trusts provided suppliers with larger opportunities to bid for, making these more attractive to the market and helping to drive prices down.

CCS’s aggregation team ran 8 regional competitions for a total of 204 health and care providers, representing approximately 3,549 services, which reduced the cost and effort of procurement for the NHS customers.

The results

Patrick Clark, NHS Digital’s HSCN Programme Director, said:

‘Creating a competitive market for network services in health and social care and driving both product innovation and value for money has been an ambition of the HSCN programme since the outset. Establishing the HSCN dynamic purchasing system in partnership with Crown Commercial Service has played a significant part of realising this ambition. The DPS has promoted the formation of a thriving market for HSCN services and provides health and social care organisations with an easy to use, low risk way of procuring excellent value, compliant services.’

The HSCN DPS successfully delivered a competitive multi-vendor marketplace – with over 30% of these suppliers being small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The aggregated competitions awarded between June and November 2018 delivered an average saving of 74% when compared to the current price paid.

This is the equivalent of an aggregated saving of £59.3m for the customers who took part in the programme. Due to the competitiveness of the HSCN offerings, some customers chose to upgrade their service rather than replace like-for-like, which, while not saving money, enabled greater clinical benefits.

The CCS and NHS Digital HSCN collaboration was awarded the Innovation Award at the Yorkshire and Humber Skills Development Commercial Awards 2019, and was shortlisted as a finalist in the Public Procurement category for the CIPS Supply Management Awards 2019.

The delivery of the HSCN DPS and associated regional aggregated procurements are critical elements in the delivery of the Health and Social Care Network and support the ongoing migration away from the N3 network.

For further information

The HSCN dynamic purchasing system (DPS) (RM3825) is the primary route to market for HSCN services. This agreement has been specifically designed for procurement of HSCN services and so its scope and the associated terms and conditions are aligned to HSCN connectivity services. 

For requirements which include business applications and overlay services in addition to HSCN, CCS’s Network Services 2 (RM3808) framework can also be used.

To learn how the HSCN DPS could help support your initiative, you can visit the agreement web page or get in touch.