The main role of the PPA is to authorize payment of over GBP 6 billion per annum and provide the management information systems, which enable the NHS to manage both the prescriptions process and the medicine budget. The PPA processes approximately 50 million prescriptions per month prescribed by 27.000 General Practitioners and dispensed by 10.000 pharmacists. As part of this process, the PPA provides prescription information to numerous other organisations that are part of the NHS. Web-based access is key to all users whilst ensuring data protection and meeting security standards.
The PPA adheres to a set of instructions applied to centres of information within the NHS. Also, as part of NHS Net - the main Web portal of the NHS - and under direction of the NHS Information Authority, a standard called "Code of Connection" exists which requires a certain number of security demands are met by a site to obtain access to NHS Net. The Code of Connection includes a strong authentication of users accessing the site and ensures that the links from one site to others, including NHS Net, are equally secure.
The PPA's choice of Nokia IP network security appliances was based on a solution that could meet stringent security standards, offer a "best of breed" portfolio to ensure ease of integration and reduced administration costs, along with support and maintenance back-up provided by Nokia Global Service & Support. The PPA also uses the Nokia Horizon Manager system, which allows the PPA's central IT department to run a fully integrated suite of firewalls along with full firewall management control.
"Nokia IP network security appliances quite simply answered our security standards and purchase security concerns. In addition, the number of mobile users is increasing substantially and the new IP VPN supported by Nokia technology will be key to delivering secure and cost-effective remote access", stated Jack Whitcombe, network project leader at the PPA.
With the delivery of more projects over NHS Net to the NHS community, the PPA is looking at upgrading bandwidth and is currently moving towards the use of an IP Virtual Private Network (VPN) to reduce connection costs. At the moment, remote access employees are connected to the system via relatively expensive primary ISDN lines. The PPA plans to enable staff to enter the Internet via an IP VPN and to authenticate at the PPA site.
"The PPA has implemented the security products it needs to help meet the operational agenda it has set itself for the future. In doing so, it can make a major contribution to improving health provision in the United Kingdom. We are proud to help the PPA achieve this", stated Susan Macke, vice president, sales & marketing, EMEA, Nokia Enterprise Solutions.
The Prescription Pricing Authority is a Special Health Authority within the National Health Service. It employs approximately 3000 staff to carry out a variety of functions. The organisation has a number of offices spanning the North East, North West and Midlands.
Shifting the Balance of Power is the programme of change brought about to empower frontline staff and patients in the NHS. It is part of the implementation of the NHS Plan and has already led to the establishment of new structures. That is only one step and the main objective will be to foster a new culture in the NHS at all levels, which puts the patient first. The main feature of change has been giving locally based Primary Care Trusts the role of running the NHS and improving health in their areas. This has meant abolishing previous health authorities and creating new bodies that serve larger areas and have a more strategic role.
The PPA maintains the largest drug database of its kind in Europe, over 576 million prescription items per year. The PPA's primary responsibilities are:
- Examination, checking, pricing and analysis of the NHS prescriptions for drugs, medicine and appliances
- Payment to Pharmacy Contractors
- Provision of regular and prompt information on the costs and trends of prescribing
- Administration, through the Health Benefits Division, of the NHS Low Income Scheme for England, Scotland and Wales and Pre-payment and Exemption Certificate Scheme