Upgraded NHS Spine communications hub saves £20m in first year, says HSCIC

The NHS Spine communications infrastructure saves more than £20m in its first year, according to the Health and Soicial Care Information Centre (HSCIC)

The NHS Spine – the health service's communications hub that connects key IT services – has saved more than £20m in its first year, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

One year after the upgrade of the infrastructure behind the NHS Spine platform, the running costs of the system – which is used in all NHS organisations and handles up to 1,800 electronic transactions per second – have been cut by £21m compared to the previous version.

The Spine is available around the clock and transfers around 400 million messages per month. It has reduced system response times by almost 90%, resulting in 750 saved hours across the NHS every day, according to the HSCIC.

HSCIC’s director of operations and assurance services Rob Shaw said that, although the Spine has improved significantly, there remains work to be done.

“We have deliberately designed the system to be flexible and adaptable to the needs of individual care organisations, which means it best meets the needs of NHS staff with new systems; improved speed and functionality,” Shaw said.

Life sciences minister George Freeman said the Spine was a great example of how substantial efficiency savings can be made.

“The NHS must be efficient in what it does and maximise the potential that technology and data has to offer better value for the tax payer. By improving the NHS IT systems we’ve already seen savings of around £21m in one year, which is great news for everyone, as it gives staff more time to be able to provide the first-rate care for patients,” Freeman said.

Previously, BT held the contract for the Spine, but the HSCIC decided to build "Spine 2" in-house. It ran a competitive tender to find a development partner and settled on software specialist BJSS, with help from open-source firm Basho to create a more flexible system.

Shaw previously told Computer Weekly: “The decision to procure commodity hardware and open-source products was something we wanted to do.”

The Spine forms a critical part of the NHS infrastructure and is used by more than 20,000 organisations with 28,000 end points, including hospitals, GPs, ambulance trusts and pharmacies.

“Our aim is for much more to be achieved to the benefit of patients and the NHS before Spine celebrates another birthday, as it continues to play a vital role as one of the most vital IT systems in this country,” Shaw said.


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