NHS Connecting for Health ceased to exist on 31st March 2013. This website is therefore not being updated. For up to date information about systems and services visit the Health and Social Care Information Centre website at www.hscic.gov.uk/systems

You are here: Home Services & Applications NHS Business Partners Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Frequently Asked Questions

This section highlights some of the questions we are frequently asked regarding connections to core NHS services.

Jump to a section:


What is the role of a sponsor?

Sponsorship provides NHS related business justification for the provision of N3 connectivity, to effectively prevent either prospective applications for such connectivity which would entail a security risk, or organisations using N3 for non-NHS business.

Why do I need a sponsor?

It is essential that an NHS Business Partner has a clear relationship in place with the NHS organisation who is commissioning your services.  The NHS commissioning organisation will act as the NHS sponsor. You will need to submit a letter as part of the Information Governance Statement of Compliance (IGSoC) process, signed by a director of the NHS sponsoring organisation, which confirms the sponsorship with the NHS Business Partner. 

How do I get a sponsor?

You will need to approach the NHS organisation that is commissioning your services to seek sponsorship.

What is a Registration Authority?

Organisations that deliver NHS care and need to access patient information within NHS systems and other national services must set up Registration Authorities to manage this process. The roles and responsibilities of Registration Authorities are defined by NHS policy. Their key tasks are first to verify the identity of all healthcare staff who need to have access to sensitive data, and second to establish and provide only the degree of access they need to do their jobs.

The Registration Authority will also determine the level of access the individual should have. That information is on a data base which is interrogated every time the individual logs on, and the appropriate access is granted. In this way the individual has no way of changing the level of access that they have been granted.

What are Smartcards?

Smartcards are similar to a chip and PIN credit or debit card, but are more secure as there is no account information on the Smartcard is more complex. Smartcards are required to access and use IT systems and services essential to the provision of patient care.

How do I get a Smartcard?

Please contact your registration authority or email cfh.accesscontrol@nhs.net for further information



What is IGSoC?

The Information Governance Statement of Compliance (IGSoC) is the process by which organisations enter into an agreement with NHS CFH for access to the NHS National Network (N3) and resultant services. The process includes elements that set out terms and conditions for use of NHS CFH systems and services including the N3, in order to preserve the integrity of those systems and services.

The steps in the IGSoC process set out a range of security related requirements which must be satisfied in order for an organisation to be able to provide assurances in respect of safeguarding the N3 network and information assets that may be accessed.

What do I need to fill in for IGSoC?

Complete all sections of the application form, and if necessary the Logical Connection Architecture document (if direct connectivity is required, e.g. VPN token) and off-shore processing support requirements (only if off-shore processing or support is intended).

The application form is available from: http://www.connectingforhealth.nhs.uk/systemsandservices/infogov/igsoc/links

What happens if it is not approved?

N3 connectivity will not be available; however applicants will receive advice and guidance from the Operational Security Team to help them successfully complete the process. If the process still cannot be satisfied, then N3SP or other service providers will not be able to provision connectivity as they are bound by contract with NHSCFH to check that IGSoC has been successfully completed before any connectivity can be provided.

How long does it take to approve the IGSoC application form?

Timescales are dependent upon the timely submission of the forms associated with the process and the completeness\suitability of the responses therein.  Some applications can take a matter of days, however if poor documentation is submitted, there are a large number of applications received for review, or the application includes any offshore issues, this could extend timescales considerably.  The average time is approximately 4 weeks, however this is non-definitive.

What is the IG Toolkit?

An online assessment of IG capability. More detail can be found at: www.igt.connectingforhealth.nhs.uk

Why do I have to complete the IG Toolkit annually?

In order to ensure IG assurances remain current and up to date, in line with changes to legislation, good practice, new technologies and other factors which may affect IG capabilities of those providing services to the NHS, and bear responsibility for the correct (and legal) processing of NHS patient data.

How do I complete IGSoC?

By completing and submitting the relevant forms (and online IG Toolkit assessments). The form is available here:


How do I publish my assessment and why?

An IG Toolkit assessment is published automatically upon completion. This provides a publicly available statement of ‘compliance’ with NHS IG requirements, which can be checked by commissioners and those involved in the provision of N3 connectivity to ensure suitability of the organisations in question with regards IG capabilities.



What is N3?

N3 is the National Network for the NHS. It provides a robust and reliable broadband network, supporting IT infrastructure, world-class networking services, secure connectivity and ensuring that there is sufficient capacity to meet current and future NHS IT needs.

N3 provides connectivity to all NHS organisations in England, as well as those non-NHS sites providing NHS care, ensuring a reliable service at every site where NHS services are delivered or managed.

How do I know if I can get N3?

N3 connections can be provided to all sites at which NHS healthcare is delivered, managed or supported in England and Scotland.

What is an ATP?

An ‘Authority To Proceed’ notification. This is automatically generated by the NHS CFH Tracking Database upon successful completion of the IGSoC process. BT will need to see this (or be aware that it has been obtained by an applicant organisation), in order to provide N3 connectivity. Commissioners also check it when assessing potential suppliers.

What is N3SP?

This stands for ‘N3 Service Provider’, the organisation that provides the N3 network. This is currently BT.

What is an ‘Expression of Interest’ form and where do I get it?

This is the initial form required to engage with N3SP in order to purchase an N3 circuit. 

The form can be found here:


Who reviews the form and how long does it take?

The Expression of Interest form is reviewed by N3SP (BT) and should not take more than a week to process. If any information has been omitted or is unclear N3SP will engage with the customer and ask for clarification. This process may take longer.

What is an agreement number?

Once an expression of interest is accepted an N3 Access Agreement will be issued to the customer for signature. This is a legal agreement between the customer and N3SP that acknowledges responsibilities for the supplier and customer. A unique access agreement number will be issued to the organisation as their N3 customer reference.

How long will it take to get a quote?

An N3 quote can take up to 20 working days. Bespoke service quotes can take longer.

Can I challenge the quote provided?

N3 quotes are market tested amongst several different suppliers and have been shown to provide good value for the NHS so it should not be necessary to challenge. However if the customer believes a mistake has been made they can liaise with N3SP through the helpdesk. If this isn't satisfactory they can raise a formal complaint and ultimately escalate to NHS CFH.

How is the quote calculated?

N3SP (BT) takes the best value option by comparing several different suppliers, if available, for the same service. An additional element is then added to the supplier price to cover the full management cost of the N3 network.

What is the CRM system?

The N3 CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is an N3 specific web portal that allows customers access to different on line services, such as completing orders, monitor existing orders and faults status updates. It also allows customers to update organisation, site and contact details.

For more information on the N3 CRM please go to http://n3.nhs.uk/CRMUserGuide.cfm

Once approved, how long before the lines and router are installed?

The time scales for an N3 service can vary and is dependent on the type of N3 service being ordered. The N3 Customer Management Team will work with customers and will explain all the relevant steps that the service delivery will undertake. They will also keep customers informed on time scales to delivery and highlight any issues that may affect service delivery completion dates. As an indication - the entry level N3 service that several AQPs have already adopted has a contractual lead time of 35 working days

What do I need to do to get ready for installation?

The N3 Customer Management team will send all the relevant information in advance to ensure you are prepared for your N3 service. The level of pre-customer preparation will vary depending on the type of N3 service being ordered. The customer will be advised accordingly throughout the ordering process.

For more information on N3 aggregators, please visit: http://www.n3.nhs.uk/News/NewVPNenhancementsavailablenowandinthepipeline.cfm 



What is ODS?

The Organisation Data Service (ODS) is provided by NHS Connecting for Health. It is responsible for the publication of all organisation and practitioner codes and national policy and standards with regard to the majority of organisation codes, and encompasses the functionality and services previously provided by the National Administrative Codes Service (NACS).

These code standards form part of the NHS data standards. NHS Connecting for Health is also responsible for the day-to-day operation of the ODS and for its overall development.

Why do I need an ODS code?

It is vital to the provision of effective healthcare that the various locations involved in a patient's treatment can communicate quickly and efficiently.

Organisation Data Service (ODS) codes facilitate this process by providing unique identification codes for organisational entities of interest to the NHS, for example NHS Trusts or CCGs  organisation sites such as hospitals, and GP Practices.

The codes are distributed to the wider NHS and uploaded on to IT systems, thus providing a set of organisational data and organisation types, names, addresses etc that are consistent across the board.

This allows those IT systems to identify precise locations reliably, quickly and easily. This requirement for systems to ensure that only valid data is exported is a normal function of any IT system and is essential for the correct exchange of information.

How do I ‘use’ an ODS code?

You will need to use your ODS code to apply for and use national applications such as N3, Choose and Book and NHSMail. You will also need to use it whenever you are submitting national reports on care /activity provided etc such as RTT (referral to treatment) data.

Your commissioning organisations are also likely to request that you use the code in all correspondence etc with them as it is your organisations unique identifier in the NHS.

What do CFH use ODS codes for?

ODS codes (previously known as NACs codes) are required in order to configure NHS services and applications such as N3 and Choose and Book and also to facilitate activity reporting.

Each unique code allows for:

  • The identification of information returned to the Department of Health;
  • The identification of the organisations involved in the electronic exchange of information within the NHS;
  • The identification of the parties involved in the commissioning and administration of an episode of care.

What type of ODS code should I have?

The type of code needed is dependent on the organisation in question and the services they will provide and use.

Independent providers will be allocated either:

  • An Independent Provider Code (IP code) or
  • An Independent Sector Healthcare Provider code (ISHP code)

For code formats please see: http://nww.connectingforhealth.nhs.uk/ods/introduction/codingformat/codingengwales/

Any provider needing to use national infrastructure services such as Choose and Book would need an ISHP code. Providers that will not use national infrastructure would be allocated an IP code.

Who are the Exeter Helpdesk and what do they do?

The Exeter Helpdesk are the CFH service desk that record and log customer enquiries for the ODS team. They will ask you to provide as much information as possible about your enquiry and then log a support call and assign it to the ODS customer support team. 

The helpdesk can be contacted via exeter.helpdesk@nhs.net



What is NHSmail?

NHSmail is the secure email and directory service available to NHS staff in England and Scotland providing:

  • A secure email, calendar, directory, fax and SMS service

It is available for use without charge for the conduct of secure NHS business messaging.

How do I apply for NHSmail?

 If you work for an existing NHS organisation and wish to register for an account please contact your Local Organisation Administrator (LOA)

To find your LOA:

At www.nhs.net (only from an NHS connection) click on 'Search Directory'.

  • Select Search ‘Organisation’ (from the drop down list) enter your Organisation name and select ‘Search’
  • Select your organisation from the list returned and click the entry to view the 'Administrators' tab. The Primary or Secondary LOA listed will be able to help.
  • Alternatively, you can usually find your LOA by contacting your local IT helpdesk.

Where do I submit my application if I am not an NHS Employee and my Business needs an NHSmail account?

Please email feedback@nhs.net

What is required in the justification document?

It must include a reference to a commissioned contract and must stipulate why allocation of  secure NHSmail accounts are deemed necessary.

An example of what the justification may include:

  • Commissioning contract number
  • Details of contract provider
  • Details of what services in relation to patient care are being provided
  • Details of what type of information will be exchanged using NHSmail
  • Details of any local or national policy statements mandating the use of NHSmail accounts to provide the patient services detailed previously
  • Number of NHSmail accounts required
  • Details about how the accounts are to be monitored, administered and validated. Include description of processes for authenticating users to unlock accounts, resetting passwords, closing accounts for ‘leavers’ etc
  • You may be required to provide proof of licensing for use of NHSmail

How long will it take to review the application?

It will take a maximum of 2 to 3 weeks.

How do I appeal if my application is rejected?

There is no formal appeal process planned but an email via feedback@nhs.net will be escalated if necessary.

What is a primary LOA?

The primary Local Organisation Administrator (LOA) is the main person taking ownership of the NHSmail accounts, and administering them within the local organisation. A secondary LOA supports the Primary LOA.  Tasks include re-setting password for locked accounts, approving distribution lists, marking accounts as ‘leavers’ or ‘joiners’ when staff move organisations.

Do I need an LOA?

Yes, all Organisations must have provision to administer their NHSmail accounts locally.

Who can be the LOA?

Anyone. Normally they work within an IT department.

Who do I contact for support?

NHSmail helpdesk on 0333 200 1133 for general NHSmail help on ‘how do I’ type questions or contact feedback@nhs.net