16 Nov 2022

techUK hosts NHS Digital Industry Briefing

On November 22 techUK were delighted to re-introduce the first NHS Digital Industry Briefing session since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The session focused on the work of the NHS Digital Platforms Directorate, providing members with the opportunity to hear from teams on several development roadmaps and service improvement programmes, including the new API platform, developments in interoperability, and alternatives to smartcards. The session aimed to foster engagement between the Platform Directorate and suppliers with a particular interest in these areas. With plenty of change over the past two years, NHS Digital used this opportunity to raise awareness of the evolution of their products and services, what this means for suppliers, and how such changes should make integration and onboarding easier. The session emphasised the many opportunities to get involved.

Nic Fox, Chief Commercial Officer at NHS Digital, kicked off the session with an overview of current priorities for NHS Digital, stressing the current focus on securing alignment on data, digital and technology across the system. We then heard from Stephen Koch, Executive Director of Platforms, who provided an overview of the priorities of the Platforms Directorate, stressing the focus on establishing core enabling services for the rest of the national programmes and industry. Stephen emphasised that he would like to see greater agility from the Platforms Directorate going forward, with the organization taking more risks and driving innovation.

The all-day session covered the following topics.

National Identification and Authentication

  • Simon Coyle, Lead Delivery Manager.

The Identity and Access Management (IAM) platform supports access to national systems and data. This system verifies a user and decides whether to permit access and/or sign prescriptions, reducing the login burden for clinicians. The project's key deliverables over the next 15 months include:

  • CIS2 replacing CIS1 by September 2023
  • The introduction of a new standards-based smartcard
  • The introduction of a new authentication level to support additional use cases
  • Federate Identities linking NHS Mail and CIS2 identities to allow access to both via a CIS2 authenticator

Suppliers were encouraged suppliers to contact [email protected] to discuss the transition.

Cohorting Service

  • Joseph Gamble, Associate Director

This service was created due to the need to implement protections for those who were vulnerable to COVID-19. Academics, clinicians and scientists were commissioned by NERVTAG to develop a way of predicting who may be at high risk.

Since the pandemic the cohorting service has successfully identified 4 million patients ‘at risk’ of the flu and is now focusing on reducing health inequalities. The service is planning to expand into breast screening from 2023.

Spine Futures

  • Shan Rahulan, Director of Platforms, Core Services

NHS Spine is a collection service which supports the health and social care sectors in the exchange of information in national and local IT systems in England. The aim is for the project to identify ways in which it can be more user centric. Over the next 3 years, the Directorate is aiming to build more open platforms that continue to provide critical healthcare infrastructure, better adapt to changing user needs, and support the development of new and innovative services.

National Records Locator (NRL)

  • Jill Sharples, Clinical Data Sharing, Platform Lead

The NRL will enable clinicians to legitimately access records for patients, at the point of delivery, no matter where the patient lives or where the records are located. The current priority of the platform is to encourage people to utilise the service and facilitate onboarding. They aim to do this by showcasing how the service can fit with interoperability objectives and how it fits into the broader picture of EPRs and Shared Care Records. There will also be a direct integration with national systems. Jill outlined the future priorities of the NRL, including migration to an API platform to provide consistent and easier onboarding and decoupling from Spine to allow horizontal scaling.

National Interoperability: APIs and the developer community

  • Shan Rahulan, Director of Platforms, Core Services
  • Stewart Fishman, Product Owner Demographics
  • Tony Heap – Product Owner API management

Shan presented again on the topic of Spine Futures, specifically focusing on Why API first? Shan stressed the importance of APIs and stated that if the NHS is to succeed and offer the best services, they need to make best use of APIs. The Personal Demographics Service (PDS) APIs, created in 2004, holds the demographic data for the population of the UK. The PDS has created a suite of APIs allowing different systems to leverage the PDS and a multitude of services underpinned by PDS data.

Stewart outlined that the landscape of APIs is simplifying, crediting FHIR for this development. He asked the supplier audience to use the strategic APIs if they are onboarding (FHIR API; NEMS; Batch service via MPT-MESH UI), and existing customers to look into migrating to the strategic offering – highlighting how easy it is to do.

Tony detailed the pain points of integration set out the plan to make integration easier for everyone with a one-stop API Platform. Tony provided a demonstration of NHS Digital’s new Developer Hub, design to make it as easy as possible to learn how to use various APIs.

Panel Discussion

  • Chaired by Shane Tickell, CEO of Temple Black, Vice-Chair of techUK’s Health & Social Care Council
  • Stephen Koch, Executive Director of Platforms, NHS Digital
  • Manesh Patel, Product Director, Interoperability, System C
  • Justene Ewing, Vice President Health & Care, UK & Australia, CGI
  • Mike Hooton, Interoperability & Integration Executive, Meditech

Stephen emphasised that supplier days such as this were key in understanding industry and attempting to cut down on time consuming and costly bureaucracy. From a supplier viewpoint, the panelists indicated that NHS Digital’s engagement with the wider community is highly valued and gratefully received. They agreed that paperwork could be reduced and highlighted that the proliferation of procurement frameworks continue to provide a significant barrier. Shan called for further engagement with the supplier community to explore the art of the possible.

You can download the full presentation here. 

Please get in touch with the team below with any questions.

Alex Lawrence

Alex Lawrence

Head of Health and Social Care, techUK

Robert Walker

Robert Walker

Programme Manager, Health and Social Care, techUK

Clara Hewitt

Clara Hewitt

Programme Manager, Health and Social Care, techUK

Tracy Modha

Team Assistant - Markets, techUK