The Department of Health and the Department of Work and Pensions have announced that local authorities can now securely access NHS Spine services.

A letter sent by DH director general of informatics Christine Connelly and DWP chief information officer Joe Harley to councils across England confirms that the link has gone live. 

It will allow councils to access controlled NHS trust-hosted applications via their existing Government Connect Secure Extranet (GCSX) connection.

The link-up will also enable NHS trust staff to securely access local authority-hosted social care systems through their existing N3 connections. The idea is to share information more effectively and efficiently and join up service delivery.

In July, a similar letter was sent saying the project had been initiated. It said: “We recognise that local authorities and NHS trusts have a strong requirement to share information including Patient Identifiable Data that needs to be accessed and transmitted securely.

“Whilst local authorities can now securely share patient data with NHSmail users via emails over GCSX1, they can only gain record-level access to both national and local NHS applications and databases via a direct connection to the N3 network or discrete point to point connection to a local NHS.”

It added that by rationalising the infrastructure there would be a significant amount of duplication.

The letter says there is a set-up fee of £450 and annual fees of up to £7,200. However, it argues: “This is considerably less than installing a separate N3 line and early adoption of the service attracts the best commercial offer from the supplier Cable & Wireless Worldwide.”

The project has been piloted across three local authorities over the past few months.

The DWP and DH are now encouraging local authorities that are interested in connecting to the network to complete an expression of interest form in order to receive a discount and be placed on the roll-out schedule.


However, the expression of interest form says that although Government Connect will pay for the establishment of the service and running costs to 31 March 2011, a service charge will apply thereafter.

Link: Government Connect