System settings, standards and updates
Published on: 16th July 2015 | Updated on: 10th June 2022
NHS applications require certain internet browsers and settings. It is important to seek expert advice from your PMR supplier before installing or upgrading software held on the local pharmacy system. In addition to the risk that this could interfere with the operation of the PMR system and limit access to national NHS IT functionality, there is a risk that this could breach the support agreement that the pharmacy has with their PMR supplier.
Community Pharmacy England previously received a number of reports of pharmacies choosing to independently upgrade to newer versions of Internet Explorer (IE) which prevented pharmacy staff from accessing online Smartcard software. Similarly, versions of IE which are too old, may not allow Spine applications such as the Summary Care Record to function fully correctly.
The standard NHS system settings are determined by NHS Digital’s Warranted Environment Specification (WES) information. WES information specifies suitable settings such as new enough versions of the below:
- operating systems (e.g. Windows 7 minimum, older Windows versions are no longer falling within the common settings);
- internet browsers (e.g. Microsoft Internet Explorer is no longer falling within the common settings);
- java version (the version of the computer programming language being used, which is intended to let programs run smoothly); and
- Smartcard-related drivers (computer program that controls use of the Smartcard reader).
Your IT support or system supplier should be familiar with the WES (NHS Digital) which should help to ensure that NHS and other key software can continue to run alongside each other. Where old versions of the above are used, the system may fall outside the standard NHS WES.
If your system supplier, or a software provider recommends using settings outside of the WES, you may discuss with them whether adjustments can be made so that all of your hardware, systems, and software can comply with the WES, so that everything you need should use the same compatibility range.
Examples of NHS IT applications include:
A briefing has been compiled for those supporting pharmacy IT, such as pharmacy system suppliers or IT helpdesks, who may be involved in supporting the transition from older to newer Windows versions. Some sections of this briefing will also be relevant to community pharmacy contractors.
From 2020, Microsoft ended its free support for the Windows 7 operating system. From December 2020, Microsoft ended its free support for the Windows 10 Home version 1903. Microsoft no longer fixes security issues discovered with much older Windows versions for free. The document includes information about mitigations in the event a machine with an older version of Windows must be used.
Read more: Preparing for Windows end-of-life cycles (CP ITG briefing).
As explained earlier, contact your IT/software support if you are unsure about whether software they manage could or should be updated.
HowToGeek.com provided guidance about how to check maintain software and ensure it is updated e.g.:
- consider setting some third party software to auto-update where this is an option;
- manually update software that cannot be set to auto-update; and
- consider alternative software if the software is no longer updated and could pose any security risk.
The Data Security and Protection Toolkit (DSPTK)
The DSPTK includes questions about system updates. Pharmacy guidance is at: https://cpe.org.uk/dsptk.
Some system suppliers allow pharmacy contractors to purchase their own hardware. Where a supplier does permit this, it is essential to talk to your supplier before making a purchase to ensure that the hardware specification will support access to national NHS IT functionality. Always talk to your supplier first.
For those that provide PMR systems or software for pharmacy, there are advantages with ensuring that your system/software is compatible with the WES. This will mean that Spine applications for your pharmacy customers ought not to experience compatibility issues.
Read more at:
- WES (NHS Digital): Spine technical information: Warranted Environment Specification (WES)
If you have queries on this webpage or you require more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. To share and hear views about digital developments with like-minded pharmacy team members, join the CP Digital email group today.