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NHS Scotland overhauls security with new sign-on system

Imprivata and Northgate score in huge patient record

In one of the most significant security roll-outs in recent NHS history, patient health records at Scotland's 1,300 GP practices and 97 hospitals are to be secured using Imprivata's desktop single sign-on (SSO) system, OneSign 4.5, NHS Scotland has announced.

At the head of the security features is the ability to access all applications after one sign-on process, backed up by self-service password resets, which overcomes the expensive hassle of calls to a helpdesk.

OneSign 4.5 is a way for health workers to authenticate themselves using one of a variety of security technologies such as biometrics or smartcards in a way that fits in with the practicalities of the working environment.

The deployment will also include 'no-click access', a way for workers to avoid the need to constantly login in during a work day using the keyboard. If workers move away from the screen, the desktop is locked and only unlocked at the moment they return once they have re-authenticated.

"As the appliance-based solution required no changes to existing infrastructure such as Active Directory, Imprivata OneSign can be seamlessly integrated with our existing IT systems at NHS Boards across Scotland," said Ronnie Monaghan, head of e-Health Programme at NHS Fife.

"This will prove significant for improving access and usage of key clinical systems for providing care on a National scale," he added.

It sounds like just another layer of security software for a sector that already uses a lot of technology, but the deal has a number of features that mark it out from the normal run of announcements.

This includes the fact that it will serve 150,000 health workers across the country, a scale few security deals or projects ever achieve in the UK in what can often be a devolved NHS procurement process. Scotland's NHS is managed by the Scottish Government Health Directorates which oversees the country's 14 NHS Boards.

Despite putting out a press release that made the deal sound as interesting as a rainy day in Dundee, it is also believed to be the single largest deals that Imprivata and key partner Northgate Managed Services have ever won.

The NHS and security are powerful twin themes, driven by worries over the security of patient records. Once the timescales have been clarified, the adoption of sophisticated technologies such as SSO will be closely watched in other parts of the public sector.

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