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NHS England decommissions data centres following cloud migration

Written by Mon 8 Jan 2024

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has confirmed that all physical data centres were decommissioned following one of the largest cloud migrations the NHS has ever undertaken. 

Digital Health News reported the NHS moved the NHS Spine to the cloud on 3 January. The NHS did not disclose which cloud provider is hosting the Spine. However, a June 2023 blog post said it intended to host Spine services on Amazon Web Services.

Spine facilitates secure information sharing via national services like the Electronic Prescription Service, Personal Demographics Service, Summary Care Record, and e-Referral Service. Handling over 1.3 billion messages monthly, it processes over 3,200 messages per second during peak times.

The decision to decommission physical data centres is aligned with one of the NHS architecture principles. The ‘Public Cloud first principle’ states digital services should move to the public cloud unless there is a clear reason not to do so.

By moving the Spine to the cloud, the NHS intended aimed to enhance cyber resilience, ensure reliability, facilitate scalable infrastructure, and decrease the Service’s carbon footprint. The NHS added it can optimise its services in the cloud, leveraging cloud-native tools to enhance and streamline operations.

“[We are] now working to optimise existing services by making use of native cloud services and reducing dependencies between parts of Spine to make it easier to upgrade and further reduce running costs and expand internet access for all our users,” said the NHS England to Digital Health News.

Created in April 2022, the Spine Futures programme was tasked with the NHS Spine’s transformation. The programme aims to provide a secure, adaptable, and sustainable infrastructure for the health and care system in England, enabling data integration between care settings.

The migration from physical data centres to the cloud took place over two dates. The first took place on 5 October 2023 and the second on 12 October 2023.

The news comes almost a year after an NHS review of a data centre outage caused by the July 2022 heatwave found that the incident cost London hospitals £1.4 million ($1.7 million).

Record temperatures in July caused the cooling systems at two data centres to malfunction, leading to an interruption of digital services. 

The NHS review determined the data centre outages were both preventable and could have been avoided had the data centres been adequately prepared for managing cooling systems in the record-setting heatwave.

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Written by Mon 8 Jan 2024

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