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NHS Digital is broadening the scope of Microsoft cloud services its staff can access to increase workforce collaboration across the health and social care sector.
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This work will eventually allow NHSmail users to use their login credentials to access the Microsoft Office 365 business productivity suite, once the synchronisation of the system with Microsoft Azure Active Directory is completed in April 2018.
Once that phase of the project is out of the way, the formal integration between NHSmail and Office 365 will commence, with a provisional completion date of August 2018.
It is further claimed that integrating the two systems will allow NHSmail users to securely share patient information in Office 365 with each other, as well as third-party organisations commissioned to deliver NHS services.
Neil Bennett, service director for NHS Digital, said the two-phased project is part of a long-term push by stakeholders to improve collaboration across the wider health and social care system.
“It means information can be more readily and securely shared between health and care organisations, and teams can collaborate more easily,” he said.
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“Ultimately it will enable NHS staff to access multiple applications and services using their NHSmail user name and password, making their job easier.
“This benefits patients because it makes the NHS more efficient and they can be assured that their confidentiality continues to be strictly maintained,” he added.
News of the announcement follows last month’s declaration by NHS Digital that public cloud services are safe and secure enough for health and social care providers to store patient data in.
In accordance with this newly published guidance, NHS Digital confirmed it will rely on a mix of US and European Office 365 datacentres to host its deployment, while the NHSmail Exchange and Skype for Business services the health service already uses will continue to be hosted in its own datacentres in England.