N3 - The National Network
N3 is the name for the National Network, a replacement for the old NHSnet network infrastructure and one of the largest VPNs in the world.
Find out more about the 10 key NHS IT projects
♦  NHS Care Records Service
♦  Choose and Book
♦  The Electronic Prescription Service
♦  N3 national broadband network
♦  Picture Archiving and Communications System (Pacs)
♦  The Spine
♦  The Quality Management and Analysis System
♦  GP2GP record transfer
♦  NHSmail- a central email and directory service for the NHS
♦  Secondary Uses Service
The high-speed broadband network is vital to the delivery of new services such as the X-ray storage service Pacs (Picture Archiving and Communications System) and electronic prescriptions.
Connections to the new N3 network started in April 2004 with the new network expected to save the NHS an estimated £900m over seven years, compared to its predecessor.
What progress so far?
By the end of April 2008, there were more than 32,000 connections to N3, including about 11,000 delivered through mainly to pharmacies.
100 per cent of existing GP sites who require a connection have been linked up and about 1.2 million NHS employees now have access.
One example of where the network is making a difference is a new lifeline for heart patients in Kent.
The Kent and Medway Community of Interest Network (COIN) is a county-wide network which runs across N3 and it now enables faster diagnosis and treatment of heart patients by linking the county's hospitals and doctors, allowing medical notes and x-rays to be seen immediately.
Prior to COIN, angiograms would have to be saved on CD and sent with the patient to a heart specialist in London.
However, some GPs are complaining that the system is beginning to get bogged down by the volume of data being sent through it.
Paul Cundy, former chairman of the British Medical Association's IT Committee, said: "N3 has been a victim of its own success and has worked well but because it worked so well there is more and more information going down it.
"A patient said to me recently: 'This is dreadfully slow while waiting to access his diagnosis'. Connecting for Health needs to start thinking about upgrading capacity to reflect usage," he added.