Leicestershire NHS body connects local email to NHSmail2

County’s health informatics service becomes the first organisation to obtain ISB 1596 accreditation

NHS Leicestershire Health Informatics Service (LHIS) has become the first public sector organisation in the country to be able connect its local email system to NHSmail2.

NHSMail logoThe provider of IT services to healthcare organisations primarily in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, and to other organisations across the country, has received the relevant ISB 1596 accreditation after working with NHS Digital and using an in-house team rather than a consultancy.

The accreditation enables it to connect its own secure email system to hundreds of thousands of NHSmail2 users across the UK.

This followed a decision that, due to local factors, it was not yet right for the service to migrate to NHSmail2 - a Department of Health approved service used by healthcare providers in England and Scotland for sharing patient identifiable and sensitive information.

Community in place

It had already created an interconnected email community to allow sensitive information to be shared between its local mental health, community, acute and social care providers.

Some of these are not yet using NHSmail2, which led to the decision by LHIS to retain its own system to ensure its customers could continue to exchange information with local care partners.

Ian Wakeford, head of service at LHIS, said: “The configuration of our email system in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland is vital for effective workflows and business processes, already allowing secure communication between community providers, local authorities and our local acute trust through private data links. 

“The time was not yet right for us to move to NHSmail2 but we did want to take advantage of securely communicating with NHSmail2 users and beyond. Accreditation from NHS Digital to connect to NHSmail2 is allowing us to achieve the best of both worlds, not losing the local benefits we have developed over years, but combining that with being able to securely communicate with all of the NHS and government secure domains that NHSmail2 has connectivity to.”

LHIS achieved the standard by drawing on internal expertise, without the need for extensive consultancy.

It has indicated that it is talking with other organisations about how to obtain the accreditation.

Complex environment

Cleveland Henry, programme director at NHS Digital, which manages the NHSmail service said: “NHSmail is a complex environment, with many organisations operating within it, and it is acknowledged that, whilst an important national service, it isn’t always the choice for every organisation.   

“It has always been the aim of the NHSmail programme to ensure secure connectivity capability is in place to enable exchange of email between non-NHSmail users within and outside of the NHS. With this in mind we developed the Secure Email Standard (ISB 1596) which seeks to establish the minimum requirements for email systems in health, public health and adult social care to support secure communications.

“LHIS successfully achieving this standard is a positive milestone which has allowed us to refine and streamline the accreditation process through engagement with LHIS, and demonstrate to the wider stakeholder community the opportunities available in securing their email services to NHSmail.”

Image from psd.scot.nhs.uk, Open Government Licence