Millions of NHSmail accounts moved to Microsoft Azure cloud

The move is in line with the UK’s ambition for a cloud-first health service.
By Sophie Porter
03:01 PM
microsoft, cloud, nhs, NHSX

More than two million NHSmail mailboxes have been moved to Exchange Online, a part of Microsoft’s Azure Cloud, as part of the UK government’s programme to adopt a fully connected cloud-driven health service. This follows on from a deal made in June 2020 by NHS Digital, NHSX and Microsoft to equip all NHS organisations with Microsoft 365.

The roll-out of Microsoft 365, which has been integrated into the existing NHSmail system, will benefit users with an automatically updated version of the collaboration suite including OneDrive, SharePoint and Online Archiving, which allows staff to manage legacy emails away from their primary inbox, freeing up valuable storage space.

WHY IT MATTERS

The handover of NHSmail to Microsoft supports the health service’s progression to a fully integrated digital service, enabling smoother and more efficient communication between staff across NHS organisations and departments and improved access to information, applications and services, including advanced audio and video meetings and messaging platforms. Ultimately, the streamlined digital system will reduce administrative burdens with the goal of improving patient care and reducing staff workload.

The integration of Microsoft 365 services into the NHS followed a decision by the tech company in March 2020 to provide free access to Microsoft Teams for NHS staff in England and Scotland in order to support the health service’s functionality as the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit the UK.

Currently, Teams is used to send almost a million messages daily within the NHS.

THE LARGER PICTURE

The adoption of a cloud-first UK health service was pushed forward by the launch of NHSX in February 2019. However, the unit has been subject to some scrutiny for its opacity, criticised for its procurement policy and warned not to continue the NHS’ adoption of “expensive and largely unsuccessful” IT programmes.

Microsoft recently announced a new sustainable datacenter in Sweden that will deliver Microsoft Cloud services across the country.

ON THE RECORD

Sarah Wilkinson, CEO of NHS Digital, said: “The migration of NHSmail to Exchange Online has enabled us to provide staff across the NHS with a mail system which is functionally richer, more secure and lower cost. We have also deployed a Microsoft Hybrid implementation of Office 365 to the NHSmail platform, which is allowing NHS organisations to provision O365 services much faster, integrate with the existing NHSmail identity, and collaborate more easily.

She continued: “I’m very proud of the Collaboration Services Team at NHS Digital for delivering the world’s largest ever Microsoft email migration, in the middle of the pandemic, when the organisation, and many of our staff, have been under so many other pressures.”

Clare Barclay, CEO of Microsoft UK, said: “While the NHS has had to function under incredibly challenging circumstances this past year, Microsoft has been proud to support its vital work in any way we can. The rapid roll-out of Microsoft 365 has ensured that clinicians and support staff across England have access to the very latest productivity tools, enabling a truly joined-up approach in the fight against COVID-19 and the effective delivery of essential care services.”

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