At present, the 1.7 million employees of the NHS use multiple email addresses. Individual hospitals usually have their own in-house email system, individuals may use personal email addresses, and others (around 700,000) use the current national system, @nhs.net, provided by Cable & Wireless. That national contract is coming to an end in June 2013, although it’s just been extended for at least 12 months.
The Department of Health (DH) considers there is considerable benefit to be gained from having a single NHS mail service that avoids duplication, improves security and saves money. (Vision)
The new service is ‘starting with a blank sheet of paper’, according to Dr Simon Eccles, Senior Responsible Officer for the project, and a Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, London. Simon wants his procurement to be an ‘exemplar procurement’, i.e. everyone involved should feel that it was well-handled, and that the ‘public purse’ got a good deal.
The requirements are attached, and the latest version is due out in ‘a week or so’. The new Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), which has taken over the role of the former NHS Connecting for Health agency, says,
‘We will work with Intellect, the UK IT Suppliers Association to gain supplier market input to help develop our thinking but welcome input from suppliers directly.’
Price is very significant. Most providers were claiming that it would cost £3 per user per month to meet the requirements. Most suppliers are saying they could do it at £2 per month. The target is £1 per user per month, though this might be challenging for some. The nearer to £1 the better. According to estimates, it is expected that 70-75% of the 1.7 million potential users will take up the new email service. So, the target annual spend would be in the order of £15m ($23m), though it is accepted that it might be more than this. Moreover, the successful supplier may be able to obtain further government email contracts via the CloudStore mechanism.
As the service will carry Personal Identifiable Data (PID), it needs high levels of security. Confidentiality is always high on the list of doctors’ and patients’ requirements. At the same time, mobility and the essential sharing of PID amongst healthcare professionals means that a degree of flexibility is needed. Dr Eccles explains his approach as high levels of security for data storage and transmission, with high levels of end-user responsibility, too.