A healthcare worker types on a laptop

NHS moves millions of mailboxes to Microsoft’s Azure cloud, giving staff access to the latest digital tools and services that support modern ways of working

The NHS has moved more than two million NHSmail mailboxes to Microsoft’s Azure cloud, in another step towards the Government’s vision for a cloud-first health service.

NHSmail is the secure email service for sharing patient identifiable and sensitive information that’s used by any organisation commissioned to deliver publicly funded health and social care. Around 22,000 accounts have been moved to Microsoft’s secure Exchange Online platform every weekday since August, rising to around 83,000 every weekend.

Sarah Wilkinson, NHS Digital’s Chief Executive, hailed the collaboration between the NHS, Microsoft and professional services company Accenture as the final mailbox was migrated.

“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,” she said.

“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. These additional Office365 services build on the deployment of Microsoft Teams, which we rolled-out at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and is currently used to send almost 1m messages across the NHS every day.

“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.”

A female healthcare worker uses a tablet

NHS staff store and manage older or legacy emails outside of their primary mailbox and freeing up space

With NHSmail now based in Microsoft Azure, the service will take advantage of Online Archiving, which will let NHS staff store and manage older or legacy emails outside of their primary mailbox and freeing up space.

The NHS will also automatically update to the latest version of the Microsoft 365 collaboration suite, so users will always have access to the latest tools and capabilities. The NHS can also provide additional Microsoft 365 services such as OneDrive and SharePoint, building on the rollout of Microsoft Teams in June last year.

By bringing all this together is one digital workplace, NHS staff will gain benefits such as:

  • Easier collaboration with colleagues across the NHSmail network
  • Work from any device, anywhere, at any time
  • Tools to create hubs for project and group working
  • Rich real-time messaging chat with co-workers
  • Access to advanced audio and video meetings

Clare Barclay, Chief Executive 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 rollout 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.”

The NHSmail move builds on an agreement struck between NHSX, NHS Digital and Microsoft last summer, which enabled all eligible organisations in England to access Microsoft 365 digital tools.

A healthcare worker with folded arms

Microsoft 365 was deployed to staff across NHS organisations, creating a truly joined-up NHS

As part of that agreement, Microsoft 365 was deployed to staff across NHS organisations, including Trusts, CCGs and health Informatics Services, creating a truly joined-up NHS. Staff are now able to communicate more effectively and have access to the information, applications and services they need, reducing administrative burdens and improving patient safety.

“The role of healthcare organisations in our society has never been more important,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, EVP and President, Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing & Operations. “Our support for the NHS and its dedicated staff demonstrates our ongoing global commitment to helping these vital organisations transform, realising the benefits of digitisation while they are able to focus on their patients.”

The Government’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has led a digital-first approach for the NHS since he was appointed to the post in 2018. A year later, NHS Digital announced details of its Internet First policy, which aimed to move services away from potentially costly, complex and inflexible purpose-built networks and onto the public cloud.