Infrastructure > Cloud

UKCloud eyes health interoperability potential with new care division

Neil Merrett Published 10 May 2017

UKCloud Health will target limited cloud adoption in NHS; third separate division potentially focused on research is understood to be under consideration


UKCloud has launched a new healthcare division that is intended to rebrand and build on its existing cloud service provision specifically for hospitals, private partnerships and pharmaceutical companies amidst a wider push within the NHS for open and interoperable systems.

In a move to play up the potential of being a UK-based company that solely hosts information and services in the UK through the Ark Data Centres joint venture, UKCloud Health has been formed to expand its public sector expertise to the wider care community.

As well as a rebranding of existing work in the healthcare field, the launch is said by the company to represent a significant investment in new staff, such as sales teams, to target opportunities among public private partnerships and pharmaceutical groups working with the NHS.

Speaking before the formal launch, company chief executive Simon Hansford said there was huge market potential for cloud infrastructure that had been limited by a number of factors in the past such as in-house skills.

Initially supporting 29 partner organisations that include Sopra Steria and Capgemini, as well 30 customers such as NHS Shared Business Services and Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Trust, further contract announcements are expected in the coming months that will build up end user numbers.

Hansford claimed that part of the potential for the new division would be in facilitating a streamlined approach to data sharing and common standards “if appropriate”.

He noted that considering concerns and wider debate around the best means of ensuring trust and patient consent for sharing medical records behind direct care purposes, UKCloud Health could not decide to share data from its platform, with the company's core focus being on providing platform security.

However, Hansford said that these considerations were nonetheless important at a time where opt out models were still up in the air considering how the government and the NHS would proceed with giving patients control of what information would be shared and how.

"There is undoubtedly a significant trust issue when it comes to the public perception of the security of highly sensitive data in the cloud," he said. "We pride ourselves on offering the highest possible levels of assurance and believe the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach offered by US headquartered generalist cloud platforms is not appropriate for specialised sectors such as healthcare, where issues of trust, privacy and interoperability are particularly important."

Hansford argued that the potential to connect cloud infrastructure and platforms of different organisations would give data holders opportunities to explore a more streamlined approach to providing specific information to other approved organisations.

He argued that this represents a significant shift from the average cloud computing approach in the public sector and law enforcement just five years ago.

“At this point, police forces had their own data centres that not only were not connected to each other, while major system integrators were also just not collaborating,” Hansford said.

Under the guise of UKCloud, the company has supported functions making use of the outgoing N3 network that links up healthcare providers.  With the gradual introduction of its replacement, the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN), some changes were expected to be required by the company to its platform at a later date.

Hansford noted that the new division was devised to bring its brand to healthcare and replicate its existing public sector business model, which has seen a significant amount of its revenues coming through Crown Commercial Service (CCS) frameworks such as G-Cloud.

He argued that cloud adoption in UK healthcare was seen as being “typically impeded by a host of different challenges.”

These included staff skills and having enough people able to engage in preparation and adoption of a cloud strategy.  To this end, UKCloud Health aims to offer end users staff support and technical expertise when switching to a cloud computing model.

Amidst the wider aims of the NHS to integrate health and social care provision and systems towards the end of the current decade and beyond, Hansford said the company expected to continue its relationship with CCS and its frameworks. 

The company was also considering making use of another CCS framework to better meets the need of care organisations under the UKCloud Health banner.

However, Hansford accepted that as well as CCS’ procurement mechanisms not being available to private organisations or contractors to obtain services, “lots of procurement people” were still uninterested or unwilling to make use of G-Cloud.

With suppliers being informed this week on whether they have obtained a place for the upcoming launch of the ninth iteration of G-Cloud, the company is still expected to rely in part on its procurement initiatives to garner public sector and health business.

Related articles:

CCS issues Health and Social Care Network data access pre-tender

UCLH appoints Epic to help realise care record interoperability aims

G-Cloud 9 to offer revised contract length flexibility

For Skyscape, now read UKCloud

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