NHSmail and IT for dentists
You may have seen the letter from the CDO about a service called ‘NHSmail’, on the Department of Health’s website in November. This tries to raise awareness of one of the many new IT services that are now becoming available to NHS contractors. These services are a result of the work taking place within NHS ‘Connecting for Health’.
On 1 April 2005, the NHS launched the Connecting for Health programme. This was conceived as an umbrella programme with a variety of work-streams, and was designed to examine and improve the roll-out of a new information technology (IT) infrastructure across all parts of the NHS.
As many of you will know, progress on the IT infrastructure in general dental practice has not been as rapid as in general medical practice. There are a number of reasons for this, including some difficulties with the necessary hardware connections being available to get services up and running in dental practices. For example, most systems designed for NHS providers are reliant on an ‘N3’ connection being available on site. NHS dentists have not been given the resources to enable them to install N3 connections in practices that are not owned by the PCT (so most general dental practices). One service of considerable usefulness, however, can be accessed without an N3 connection: NHSmail.
NHSmail has been approved by the Department of Health as the only secure email service for NHS practitioners. It is an encrypted service that can transmit sensitive patient information securely between NHSmail accounts. Secure electronic transmission of clinical and confidential information is becoming increasingly important as practices continue to move towards paperless systems, storing and transmitting information electronically. Users are able to retain a single email address for the duration of their NHS career and therefore, only need to manage a single email account.
Perhaps one of the most useful features of the NHSmail system is the free SMS (text messaging) service available. This can be used to set up an appointment reminder service to reduce DNAs (Does Not Attend). For further information about how to do this, see the section ‘Using NHSmail for daily workflows’, in the Guidance pages, accessible from the Tools pages at www.nhs.net (these pages can only be accessed from an N3 connection, if you are not already an NHSmail account holder).
How to get up and running with NHSmail…
Getting an NHSmail account is relatively painless although an N3 connection is required for registration. In practice, this usually means using a computer on NHS premises and the technical aspects of the registration process will be supported by your Local Organisation Administrator (LOA). To find out who this is, contact your PCT. As an N3 connection is required for setting up the account, the LOA at the PCT is usually the person to help general dental practitioners to register. Once registered, the account is accessible from any internet connection and from any computer with a connection to the internet, using the Outlook Web Access (OWA) functionality available with NHSmail.
Once you have created an account, technical support is available from the helpdesk 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Helpdesk can be contacted on 0333 200 1133 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. After registering, you may wish to sign up for the online training programme for new NHSmail users, which can be found at www.microsoft.com/uk/nhs/NHSmail