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Major NHS IT system successfully rebuilt and launched while supporting thousands of health staff and patients

September 09, 2014: A highly complex national IT system that provides the foundation for round-the-clock patient care has been successfully rebuilt in a project led by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

Thousands of care organisations, health professionals and patients in England who rely on the NHS Spine - the electronic backbone of the NHS - were able to securely access its systems and services during a major transition to a new technologically advanced version.

More than a dozen national IT systems and services were migrated to the new Spine in the space of a weekend following months of rigorous planning, testing and development.

Built in-house by the HSCIC in collaboration with agile software specialists BJSS, the new Spine has been supported by a number of smaller specialist firms, including open source experts Basho, using cutting edge technology. Together they have created a more flexible system that represents a design step change away from the earlier centralised product.

HSCIC chief executive Andy Williams said: "We have harnessed the latest technology to rebuild the most important NHS electronic system, built over 10 years ago and today relied upon by hundreds of thousands of health staff and patients every single day. Of equal importance is we have ensured value for money - by bringing the system in-house the day-to-day running costs are set to fall substantially.

"Rebuilding such a massive and integral system was a huge challenge, not least in ensuring more than 20,000 organisations and the many thousands of people who rely on the system were able to continue accessing the Spine during the transition with minimal disruption. I am delighted that the HSCIC, supported by the commitment of several other organisations, has achieved this."

HSCIC Director of Operations and Assurance Services Rob Shaw said: "The new Spine has been built using an agile approach, which means it is responsive to the changing requirements of patients, health professionals and the NHS as whole. As services develop we can change or add new ones quickly and without impact on other parts of the system."

"We carefully planned a phased approach to move to the new system, in order to minimise disruption over the transition weekend and ensure patient care was delivered throughout. We avoided a "switch off switch on" approach, which would have led to a complete gap in critical NHS services like out-of-hours care, several ambulance services and NHS 111."

The HSCIC is now supporting suppliers and users with the next planned phase of transition, which involves closely monitoring all Spine services and systems and providing assistance to resolve any issues.

Spine services and systems are available 24/7 and on average 99.97 per cent of the time. This is despite supporting an increasing amount of traffic equating to about 400million electronic messages a month and more than 2.6 billion information requests and amends each year.

In example, health professionals view 2,700 Summary Care Records a day - or one every 30 seconds - through the Spine to ensure patients receive the best direct care.


Notes to editors

1. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was established on April 1 2013 as an Executive Non Departmental Public Body (ENDPB). It is England's trusted data source, delivering high quality information and IT systems to drive better patient services, care and outcomes. Its work includes publishing more than 220 statistical publications annually; providing a range of specialist data services; managing informatics projects and programmes and developing and assuring national systems against appropriate contractual, clinical safety and information standards.

2. BJSS is a full-service IT consultancy with a 21 year track record of building and providing enterprise-class systems based on its proven BJSS Enterprise Agile approach. The company works across a number of different industries, but a large section of the business is focused on the public sector and financial services sectors. For more information visit:

3. Basho is a distributed systems company dedicated to making software that is highly available, fault-tolerant and easy-to-operate at scale. Basho's distributed database, Riak, and Basho's cloud storage software, Riak CS, are used by fast growing Web businesses and by one third of the Fortune 50 to power their critical Web, mobile and social applications and their public and private cloud platforms. Riak and Riak CS are available open source. Riak Enterprise and Riak CS Enterprise offer enhanced multi-datacenter replication and 24×7 Basho support. For more information, visit Basho is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has offices in London, San Francisco, Tokyo and Washington DC.

4. For media enquires or interview requests please contact or telephone 0300 30 33 888. Please note the change to our media line number.

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