A "secure" information gateway has been established between local authorities and NHS trusts, under a deal between government procurement arm Buying Solutions and Cable & Wireless.

The supplier has established the GCSX - N3 Interconnect Service, which provides a data interface between the Government Connect Secure Extranet (GCSX) and the NHS N3 broadband network.

The GCSX - N3 Interconnect Service is designed to provide the foundation for more integrated health and social care by enabling information sharing between local government and the NHS, without the need for additional network infrastructure.

The N3 Interconnect Service costs local authorities "considerably less" to obtain and run than using a separate N3 connection, Cable&Wireless claimed, removing the need to duplicate the procurement and management of additional infrastructure.

Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council has implemented the new service as an early adopter because it had been looking at ways to reduce duplicated infrastructure.

Simon Watton, IS programme manager at Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council, said: "The GCSX - N3 Interconnect Service makes commercial and business sense. Our priorities are speed of implementation, high resilience, expandability and predicted lower cost of ownership, all of which were met with this implementation.

"We do not have to obtain and maintain two separate connections and it is much simpler as we have a single point of contact for both services.”

Patrick Clark, head of Government Connect, said: “The ability for local authority staff to securely and conveniently access NHS data from their desktops, using existing infrastructure and processes, is an exciting development and a major boost to the drive towards more integrated health and social care service provision.

"I encourage local authorities and NHS organisations to seek to adopt the Interconnect Service at the earliest opportunity in order to enable the shared services required to meet the increasing demand for them to be more cost efficient and join up services."

Clark said "there was potential" for central government to use the network for sharing data with the NHS.

Last year, the government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Cable&Wireless and BT, the supplier of the N3 network. MoUs were also signed with all of the other main government IT suppliers, aimed at cutting costs and improving procurement.