15 January 2013: The Department of Health’s IT strategy, The Power of Information, identifies a need to ‘move to industry adoption of open standards, greater interconnectivity and interoperability, and greater competition between system suppliers to support local service requirements’ and options for Spine 2 will recognise this requirement.

In February 2012 BJSS was awarded a Framework Agreement to supply Specialist Cloud Services to the UK Government via the G-Cloud programme and was subsequently selected to work alongside NHS Connecting for Health on options for the Spine 2 project in June 2012.

The Holy Grail in IT development is to be better, faster and cheaper,” comments Paul Jones, CTO at NHS Connecting for Health. “Usually it is only possible to achieve two out of three. If it’s better and faster, then it will be expensive; if it’s cheap it will be slower, but the approach we are looking at with Spine 2 could hit all three of our targets. We decided to look at what is the absolute nucleus of the Spine, what it does and what it does well and endeavour to develop a proof of concept that can process high transaction volumes on commodity hardware.

The Spine is part of the critical national infrastructure that supports the delivery of services and health care provision in the UK. It has delivered a national infrastructure service that already supports programmes such as the Summary Care Record (SCR), Choose & Book (CAB), Electronic Prescription Service (EPS), GP2GPQuality Management & Analysis System (QMAS), Secondary Uses Service (SUS) and NHS Number. The Spine handles vast volumes of transactions, it contains NHS Numbers and demographic data for over 70 Million patients which is requested or amended more than 2.6 Billion times a year.

Describing the options for Spine 2, Jones continues, “It would be a huge step change in the way the Spine would be delivered. We would have greater flexibility allowing us to respond more quickly to customer demands and it should be easier for other suppliers to integrate with the Spine while still having controls around it. Essentially, it would afford us many more opportunities to enhance the service quickly to meet the needs of the NHS.

In summary, Jones says. “There are significant challenges. Migrating these volumes of data and keeping all our services for the NHS in sync would require a great deal of thought, planning and testing. This is just the start but it’s a promising one and would ensure information flowed more freely across the NHS through a Spine that was faster, better and cheaper.”

Glynn Robinson, General Manager, BJSS says: “The Spine is absolutely critical to the day-to-day running of the NHS, so any project that alters it must be carried out with the utmost care and attention. With our track record and industry-leading Enterprise Agile approach to delivering complex software solutions, we are confident we could achieve significant improvements to the breadth, scale and speed of services delivered over the Spine without disrupting the delivery of core NHS services.

BJSS will work with NHS Connecting for Health to build the core services of ‘Spine 2’ – PDS, EPS, SCR and TMS – in a series of iterative developments. The company will also develop options to replace the user interfacing systems that access Care Records and Demographics Services, while ensuring the existing external interfaces remain unchanged to ensure there is no adverse impact on existing connected systems.