The NHS is looking to move away from private networks such as N3 and HSCN to running services over the internet.

According to NHS Digital, health and care services are now to “have an Internet First policy” which states new digital services should operate over the internet.

The organisation added that existing services should also be updated to do the same at the earliest opportunity, ideally by March 2021.

The secretary of state for health and social care, Matt Hancock, spoke about the new policy at The King’s Fund’s Digital Health and Care Congress on 23 May.

He said: “We are moving health and care away from private networks like N3 and HSCN so we can run all our services across the internet.

“This will open up the ecosystem too, so charities will be able to build apps for patients with specific conditions, for example, and the NHS can run off-the-shelf stuff that works well everywhere else – we don’t need everything invented here.”

Speaking at the same event at The King’s Fund, Hancock also confirmed that the tender for the GP IT Futures Framework has been issued with an estimated value of £484million.

The news was also welcomed by Hancock’s tech advisor, Hadley Beeman who said on Twitter that the move “should make it easier to build digital tools for the NHS”.

Beeman later added that the HSCN programme is still an “important transitional step away from N3 and towards making digital health and care services available over the internet”.

Tom Denwood, SRO for HSCN, added “We’ve worked with DHSC to fire the starting gun for internet first, but while the plethora of software applications used in the NHS are made ready for the internet, the Health and Social Care Network is an important stepping stone.

“This gets the NHS off N3, which is the expensive legacy network, by Aug 2020.   NHS organisations are achieving very impressive like-for-like savings when moving from N3 to HSCN and the cumulative saving for the NHS will be £70m per annum. This frees up NHS budgets for digital transformation work, or the money can be ploughed back into patient care.”

NHS Digital said services owned by them will also be updated or replaced to meet the Internet First policy.

The organisation is also looking for feedback on the policy to help them understand how it can support the implementation of Internet First, and how possible it is to complete this work by the March 2021 deadline.

Health or social care organisations can also provide feedback via a questionnaire between now and 14 June.