Jump to Navigation

Developing NHS Digital Platforms for the Future

Submitted by Katherine on Fri, 11/11/2022 - 13:09
Developing NHS Digital Platforms for the Future

In partnership with techUK, NHS Digital are reintroducing their Industry Briefing Sessions. These sessions provide insight into the various teams within NHS Digital and their plans including development roadmaps and service improvement programmes.

Within the NHS Digital (NHSD) organisation, there are eight directories that all work together to help improve health and social care. These include:

  • Strategy, policy, and governance
  • Product delivery
  • Data services
  • Platforms
  • IT operations
  • Corporate services
  • Assurance and risk management
  • Cyber operations

The role of Platforms within NHS Digital

Platforms are responsible for providing the programs that help deliver data services and products in NHSD. These platforms include demographic registers, citizen identity and NHS workforce identity services, messaging platforms for prescriptions and referrals, cohort identification platforms, booking platforms, and core infrastructure to support messaging and API-oriented services. The aim is to use modern technologies to help enhance and develop the processes they already have in place

The purposes of Platforms within NHS Digital

Platforms have set about a number of purposes to help them become a world leader in digital health care, some of the purposes include:

  • Providing more digital services designed around the needs of health and care professionals, patients, and the public.
  • Providing services that offer simple and speedy access to the information and data that matters, whenever and wherever it’s needed.
  • Providing cost-effective, sustainable solutions that improve investment value, accelerating the digital transformation of the NHS.
  • Enabling organisations to obtain the public and private network services they need to successfully deliver digital services.

NHS Digital briefing in Platforms

On 2nd November techUK ran a session that looked into the Platforms directorate and the main theme of the session was Interoperability, with a focus on the following areas:

  • National Identity and Authentication: CIS2 and direction for secure access to clinical information
  • National Interoperability: Spine Futures and the National Record Locator service
  • National Interoperability: APIs and the developer community

Throughout the session, each topic was discussed regarding its current position and its future.

Within NHSD Platforms they are working on the above topics to help achieve the NHS Long Term Plan which involves making better use of data and digital technology to achieve better healthcare and services for staff and patients.

Identity and authentication

The NHS deals with extremely sensitive data, and therefore they must have a secure system by which only authorised figures can access the information. They have recently introduced the following initiatives to help with this:

  • Care Identity Service 2 (CIS2): Care Identity Authentication. This allows health and care professionals to authenticate their identity when accessing clinical information systems. They are also able to access information through a range of devices, for example, tablets and laptops. This will incorporate Smartcards and biometrics (fingerprint and facial recognition).

Spine Futures

The spine supports the IT infrastructure for health and social care in England, joining together over 23,000 healthcare IT systems in 20,500 organisations. Spine Futures is a programme that has been created to make better use of modern technologies. A core element of the programme is to move Spine products to the cloud to make them accessible for everyone regardless of location or device.

National Record Locator (NRL)

The purpose of the NRL is to enable clinicians to access records for patients, at the point of delivery, no matter where the patient lives or which supplier provides the records, or where the records are located. NHSD are making plans to build the NRL using cloud-native components, to make it accessible via Application Programming Interface (API) Management, to design it to support versioning API’s, design to support complete document references, and the ability to store additional information.

API Management

The NHS Application Programming Interface (API) platform is the ‘front door’ for health and care API’s for the NHS. APIs are patient-facing applications used to talk to back-end applications, which are mostly owned by NHS Digital. The platform provides a consistent experience for API consumers and API producers that makes integration easier. Going forward NHSD has some principles outlined in making their API word class:

  • Make learning easier
  • Make onboarding easier
  • Make designing and building easier
  • Make help and support easier
  • Make testing easier
  • Make running easier
  • Make building and running API’s easier

NHSD has also created a Developer Community to help those get support or give help on integrating with NHSD APIs. This community allows for easy access for the health and care system to have trusted support, insight, and knowledge from NHSD, within an open environment.

Future skills needed within the NHSD Platforms directorate

Based upon the above initiatives, the NHSD Platforms directorate has stated, they need more skills in the following areas:

These skills only represent a fraction of what’s needed to help support the NHS in its digital transformation. Find out what current NHS jobs are available here.