NHS communications boosted through systems integration

NHS Digital has announced plans that it hopes will enable staff to communicate with each other through better integrated systems.

The initiative will integrate NHSmail, which uses Microsoft Exchange and Skype for Business to securely share patient information, with Office 365.

All NHS employees can use NHSmail, as can those organisations commissioned to deliver NHS services.

The plans will eventually see users being able to log into a range of applications and services, integrated with Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), using their NHSmail credentials.

The first part of the journey will be the synchronisation of the NHSmail directory with Azure AD, which is expected to be completed by this April. This will be quickly followed by integration with Office 365 (O365) services. This should be completed by August.

Neil Bennett, Service Director for NHS Digital, said: “This synchronisation of NHSmail to Azure AD and integration with O365 is part of our long-term vision to bring about greater collaboration across the wider health and care system.

“It means information can be more readily and securely shared between health and care organisations and teams can collaborate more easily.

“Ultimately it will enable NHS staff to access multiple applications and services using their NHSmail user name and password which makes 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.”

O365 services will be hosted in the EU or US data centres in accordance with the recently published guidance on offshoring data and the use of public cloud services. NHSmail Exchange and Skype for Business services which will remain outside of the O365 tenant will continue to be hosted within NHSmail data centres in England.

The existing national NHSmail service team will continue to provide frontline support for the core NHSmail service and any organisation wishing to use the NHSmail/O365 hybrid.

Users will see no change in how they currently access NHSmail, and there will be no additional licence costs resulting from the synchronisation.

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