The UK's National Health Service (NHS) has decommissioned the data centers previously hosting its NHS Spine system.

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The national body confirmed on January 3 that all physical data centers that were hosting the NHS hardware were decommissioned just prior to Christmas.

The NHS Spine, which is responsible for sharing information across the national service including the Electronic Prescription Service, the Personal Demographics Service, the Summary Care Record, and the e-Referral Service, sends around 1.3 billion 'messages' a month, equivalent to around 3,200 messages a second.

Moving the system to the cloud was completed in October of this year, and is hoped to improve the security, efficiency, and sustainability of digital infrastructure for the health and care system in the UK. It was not shared which cloud provider is now hosting the Spine.

NHS England told Digital Health News that it is “now working to optimize 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.”

The decision to exit physical data centers is aligned with the NHS' architecture principles which suggest that "digital services should be delivered from [or move to] the public cloud unless there is a reason not to do so."

It is also a core principle of the "Spine Futures" program which started in April 2022 and sets out to "Provide a secure, adaptable, and sustainable infrastructure for the health and care system in England, enabling data integration between care settings."

Individual NHS Trusts and hospitals continue to operate their own data centers.

In August 2022, NHS' Lincolnshire Trust launched a £1 million ($1.2m) data center in Lincolnshire, the UK.

In the past, AWS has won several NHS contracts, including from NHS Scotland and Track & Trace.

Outages at UK hospital data centers have occurred in the past, with London-based Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust experiencing a significant IT outage during the 2022 UK heatwave, and November 2023 holding witness to an outage at Nottingham University Hospital after a UPS failure.