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NHSmail: Making Digital Connections Count in Social Care

NHSmail is the secure email service approved by the Department of Health and Social Care for sharing patient identifiable and sensitive information. NHSmail, messaging and sharing can be accessed by any organisation commissioned to deliver NHS healthcare or related activities. 

It comes as no surprise therefore to learn that Frimley Health and Care Integrated Care System (ICS), has started a programme of supporting care homes across parts of Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire, enabling professionals working in care homes to incorporate the secure NHSmail system by allowing them to communicate confidentially with clinicians’ in both primary and secondary care settings about the ongoing care of their patients.   

The law requires that we give patients the utmost protection when dealing with so much digital information, be that personal sensitive data or patient identifiable data.  All organisations should have robust information governance policies and procedures in place to maintain the highest standards.  So, the importance of good governance when handling patient related information cannot be understated.

A pilot scheme started in East Berkshire, initially with ten nursing homes that are now fully operational with using nhs.net accounts, and a further five are currently in training.  The aim is that all 57 care homes in East Berkshire will be able to use NHSmail accounts by the end of the year.   

During March, seven care homes in the Surrey Heath area and eleven homes in North East Hampshire area completed the training to NHSmail accounts.

Shirley Joseph, East Berkshire CCG care homes quality lead said: “Care homes are working with a new ten-point, patient-centred standard framework, and this, together with a new toolkit will eventually enable care homes to have access to NHSmail, and so provides assurance that the transfer of patient information between NHS organisations and care homes at all times remains safe and secure”.

The initiative will also help care homes to meet their obligations under the General Data Protection Rules (GDPR); providing secure communications between themselves and clinical colleagues including GPs’; community matrons’ and a range of other healthcare professionals.

Shirley added; “Care home managers across the system have really embraced this exciting development, and are keen to introduce digital technology, enhancing both the care to their residents whilst at the same time delivering protection for their care teams. This is one more example that demonstrates how the Frimley ICS, working as a unified system in a collaborative way, is driving up the quality of care to our patients.”

Cliff Grand-Scrutton, Director at H Plus Care Limited in Maidenhead said: “Having a secure method of email to fellow professionals is important to all healthcare professionals, as passage of confidential information speeds up outcomes and benefits the service users….the advantages are huge, and having that here at Larchfield House, a very complex 100% nursing Dementia establishment, means we can rely on good and secure communication between other supporting professionals (GPs; community based teams; dietitians; hospital teams; consultants; and other CCG's and NHS England), who contact us with referrals and confidential information”.

Speaking of his own establishment’s take-up of NHSmail, Abbas Abdeali, Operations Manager, from Eton House Residential Home in Datchet, said:  “Overall I am very pleased we decided to go ahead and get NHSmail.  It is a great stepping stone to being able to communicate efficiently with various health professionals’ (GPs, DNs, TVNs etc) regarding sensitive data, and we have already seen the benefit of having NHSmail (i.e. extremely quick written responses from GPs regarding residents’ medical conditions).”

He continued: “In January 2018, we embarked on a complete restructure of our IT infrastructure in order to become compliant with GDPR. Therefore, the whole information governance toolkit for us only took a couple of hours or so, as nearly all the requirements were already in place. All in all – I am extremely pleased to have joined NHSmail for Eton House. It was a good decision and we are already reaping the benefits of it.”

Teresa Morris, manager at Willow House, in Farnborough said, “We’re all ready to go and very excited about using the NHS mail system.  Being able to communicate directly and securely with healthcare professionals about the care of my residents will be a great help. It will help us to deliver better care to our residents, reduce the time we historically spend trying to communicate with the appropriate healthcare professional, and allow us to provide more timely and efficient care overall.”

Frimley Health and Care