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Yorkshire and Humber region awards HSCN contract to Redcentric

Network services provider Redcentric wins the first major regional Health and Social Care Network contract as procurements around England gather pace

Redcentric, a supplier of cloud and networking services, will connect 65 public sector organisations and 3,000 sites across Yorkshire and Humberside to NHS Digital’s Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) and the existing Public Services Network (PSN), after being named as preferred supplier in a regional aggregate procurement.

The two networks span the health, local authorities, emergency services and transport sectors, and at their core are designed to help reduce costs and enable efficient and integrated service delivery in the public sector through provision of ultrafast connectivity.

The four-year framework has the potential to add between £15m and £20m of incremental revenue, with £1m to £3m expected to be delivered in 2018. Redcentric said it expected this to increase between now and 2022 as more services are rolled out across the region.

“We are proud to have been awarded this framework, it is a great example of a flexible and collaborative partnership between public and private sectors. It also demonstrates Redcentric’s credentials as a trusted and reliable technology partner,” said Redcentric chief executive Chris Jagusz.

Though unable to comment directly on the Redcentric award due to purdah restrictions ahead of the local elections on Thursday 3 May 2018, Patrick Clark, NHS Digital head of migration, told Computer Weekly during a separate interview that four aggregate procurements assisted by NHS Digital (including Yorkshire and Humberside) were now up and running, the others being in London, Southeast England and Southwest England.

Two more are planned in the Midlands and Northwest England, and 26 independently-run collaborative procurements between NHS organisations are also in the works. Private sector organisations – such as private healthcare practices and pharmacists – are tending to go it alone at this point in time, added Clark.

The large aggregate procurements are designed partly to de-risk the procurement and transition process for smaller NHS organisations that may not have the same resources or confidence levels of their larger peers, and to ensure that different organisations working across regions are better able to collaborate with one another.

NHS Digital said it has been pleasantly surprised by the pace of HSCN procurement to date. A total of 13 suppliers are now fully accredited to supply live HSCN services – it had expected between eight and 10 at this point – and about 300 NHS organisations accounting for more than 6,000 sites, representing around 55% of the health service’s total estate, having launched their procurements, a figure that is expected to rise sharply during May and June.

Clark said he was pleased with how the marketplace for HSCN services was “swinging into action”, although he added it was important not to be complacent and to remain focused on putting into practice the lessons learned from the roll-out of PSN five years ago, when a row over compliance resulted in one council apparently being hours away from being disconnected from the service.

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“There will be a lot of procurements active over the next few months and we need to be sure that doesn’t cause suppliers problems in terms of their ability to be competitive … [and] make sure customer-led procurements don’t overcomplicate their requirements or constrain the market in its ability to do things properly. We’re being cautious, looking in on all processes and maintaining a close relationship with organisations,” he said.

Additionally, NHS Digital has embarked on its own HSCN procurement process through the RM3825 dynamic purchasing system, and is understood to have awarded a contract, although Clark was unable to reveal to whom, again due to purdah restrictions.

“It was a very strong competition, we used the DPS, we used our own guidance, we did everything we want people to do, and it is working out. It did work,” said Clark. “We did expect perhaps more teething problems, but suppliers responded in droves, and all with strong bids.”

Its own migration off the so-called Transition Network (TN) – the legacy N3 network – will begin in the near future, depending on the pace of migration around the NHS. “We will migrate at the pace of migration of the wider NHS community because they all use our services,” said Clark.

He said NHS Digital was aiming to get every NHS organisation off TN by August 2020, and he urged those that are further back in the process to seek out support if they were struggling.

“It’s important to us that we’re not waiting until July 2020, because the industry won’t be able to cope with that. There’s a great advantage to going progressively, centrally because we can start to close down the physical infrastructure of TN, which saves money in real terms, [and] locally [because] the sooner they get on HSCN, the sooner they can access better and cheaper network services,” he said.

Dermot Ryan, HSCN programme director, said: “We’re keen to make it clear to the user base that we’re here to support them. If they’re having problems with procurement or migration, we want them to get in touch with us.”

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