NHS-HE Forum Meeting 12th May 2005 - Personal Notes

These are personal notes - the official web site is at: http://www.nhs-he.org.uk/ where, it is promised the powerpoint presentations and papers from this meeting will be made available.

NHS-HE forum stand at HC2005 I found out about this group, when I visited their stand at the HC05 conference in Harrogate in March & made contact. I was then invited to this meeting, and become involved in the work.

About 50 people attended representing the NHS (particularly the NPfIT/Connecting for Health), UKERNA which runs the academic JANET network, and various universities, all at fairly senior level, with a few commercial and consulting and supplier organisations..

The meeting was held at University College London & chaired by Prof. Roland Rosner, who opened the meeting with a brief history of the forum and it's objective. He highlighted some of the problems e.g. the 2 PCs on a desk linked to 2 different networks for different purposes which have been an issue identified by the Special Interest Group for IT in Russell Group Universities (RUGIT) and the Consortium of Research Libraries in the British Isles (CURL)  Professor Roland Rosner

Malcolm Teague, who has recently become the full time coordinator for the NHS-HE Forum spoke next adding more detail about the objective and work of the forum. He focused on authentication issues and pointed delegates to the paper by Geoffrey Smith setting out the approach taken in a pilot project connecting Addenbookes NHS Trust and Cambridge University Networks, and the 3 tier client/server model (e.g. CITRIX). There were several references to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) which was a new term for me in this context. He suggested the business case for this work may come from the need for NHS staff to be able to work from home, which can then be applied to the HE setting. He also raised issues about smart card authentication systems (which would require smart card readers connected to all PCs) and secure ID tokens.

The next part of the morning was an "Open Floor" session in which several delegates described projects they are working on. These included the All Wales Network which may be simpler than England as there is only 1 medical school (no mention was made of Nursing & Allied Health), and current developments to provide desktop video conferencing as a part of the Lifelong Learning Network in Wales. Also described was work from the Newcastle Medical School on video conferencing and the use of Shibboleth for authentication. A further description was given of the work in Manchester to connect universities (including Edge Hill for Nursing) via the Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) to the NHS with the proposal for a Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN). Ian Wilcox from Hampshire Country Council then gave a short presentation on joint applications and services between the NHS, County Council & Local Councils e.g. Child protection & Housing via an extranet with additional authentication using the Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS). The final short presentation in this section was about the Academies being developed in Avon Gloucestershire and Wiltshire NHS with the University of Bristol and University of the West of England, describing issues around equity of access to learning resources and the need for good flexibility and communication when working across 11 trusts and 70 sites.

The next presentation was by Mark Ferrar, Infrastructure Director, Connecting for Health, who described a bleak picture with nothing currently in place to provide a N3-JANET network and the work currently "stalled". A technical design had been drafted by the NHSIA and then lost in the staff changes involved in the move of this work to the NPfIT. He set out some of the challenges relating to:

He focused on authentication at local and national levels, and security models (which also seem to be stalled/lost) and will need to be picked up by C4H Information Governance Group. He had no promises on the timescales in which this work might be completed, although he pointed towards a browser based authentication approach. He also commented on discussions currently underway for access to anonymised data via the Secondary Uses Service via smart card access for research purposes.

The lunchbreak provided an opportunity for useful networking and exploration of some of the topics which had been raised during the morning - and I heard my first mention of the DoH slang for NHS Connecting for Health=NHS Con !!!

Ben Toth The first speaker after lunch was Ben Toth, Head of Knowledge Services, Connecting for Health, who is working on NHS libraries for the 21st Century. He talked about the plans for the National Library for Health and related access issues. He focused on business and licensing issues rather than IT and set out a vision of supporting users whenever and wherever they needed it, to enhance clinical quality and safety.
The next speaker who addressed similar issues from an HE perspective was Dr. Paul Ayris, UCL Librarian and chair of the content group at the Society of College National and University Libraries (SCONUL) Health Strategy Group, who touched on systems for the payment (by JISC & NHS) of author fees for the Public Library of Science, BIOMED Central etc., and an expected (? early June) statement from the Research Councils UK about the dissemination of research outputs. He also discussed the joint procurement of e-resources for the NHS & HE and work to link Athens accounts for those with both NHS & HE rights. Paul Ayris

The final speaker of the afternoon was John Hemsley, Non-NHS Connections Manager, BT N3, who described the current N3 catalogue of services, along with some of the technical work underway and potential negotiations with universities - although the meeting seemed to think these negotiations should occur at JANET level rather than individual university level.

General thoughts, comments and questions

This was an interesting meeting and I'm glad that I attended, although some of the discussion of protocols etc. was a little "techie" for me. The work that has been done seems to have been driven by medical schools in the Russel Group universities and needs to be broadened to take into account the needs of the much larger number of universities providing education for nurses, allied health professionals etc.

Other areas which I think could usefully be shared include access to applications within the NHS (without live patient data) for educational purposes and the use of metadata schemas for the sharing of reusable learning objects and the development of shared VLE/MLE functionality.

I would recommend that the Council of Deans and Heads of UK University Faculties for Nursing & Health Professions become involved in the work of this group.

Any comments or questions: Rod@rodspace.co.uk

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Last Updated: 15.05.05