The Spine is a collection of national applications, services and directories that support the NHS in the exchange of information across national and local NHS systems. The Spine connects clinicians, patients and local service providers throughout England to essential national services, for example, the Electronic Prescription Service, Summary Care Record, the NHS e-Referral Service and Demographics services.
The Spine provides the infrastructure that enables increased patient safety, improved quality of healthcare, greater clinical effectiveness and better administrative efficiency. It is used and supported 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is highly resilient.
The Spine services are delivered on a large scale – as of August 2014, it:
- Connects and services more than 21,000 organisations and links over 27,000 ICT systems within these organisations
- Provides a single consistent source of demographic data for 80 million patients. Information is requested and amended more than 2.6 billion times a year
- Has enabled over 42 million Summary Care Records to be created and stored
- Records processed by the DBS (demographic batch tracing service) currently runs at c.50m per month
- Has transmitted over 1.3 billion EPS prescription messages and 50 million EPS dispense notifications
- Has enabled approximately 2,500 new smartcard user registrations per week
- On average delivers over 77,000 GP2GP transfers a month (average taken over a six month period).
During 2014, the Spine 2 programme team completely replaced the original Spine infrastructure using modern technologies. Working with partners BJSS, the HSCIC developed the replacement service in-house using agile development and open source technology. The new service will provide better flexibility to accommodate future changes in service functionality.
Future releases of new Spine functionality are planned throughout 2014-15, including the introduction of the Child Protection – Information Sharing application which will help to improve the protection of children who have previously been identified as vulnerable by social services.
The HSCIC transitioned to the new Care Identity Service in February 2015, the system that manages smartcard access for over 900,000 health and care workers. See further information on Spine 2 CIS for RAs.