Seven NHS Trusts in the East Midlands are set to save 30 to 40 percent by jointly buying a single radiology information system, according to Andrew Fearn, ICT director at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.
The system will allow hospitals to store their images (mainly X-rays, MRI or CT scans), attach reports to them, and make them available for others to see digitally, he explained.
Although it will save money, the main advantage of the system will be the clinical benefit of being able to share images across organisations in real time, Fearn added.
The new system will be implemented over the next year, with the seven hospitals sharing the £30 million costs spread over the 10 years of the contract.
The cloud-based system will be provided by GE Healthcare and will allow doctors to view and discuss images 'live'.
From days to seconds
At the moment some images take days to be transferred, with CDs being physically moved from one hospital to another.
Fearn said: "We started trying to save ourselves a bit of money but now the clinical opportunities far outweigh that. The clinical benefits are absolutely fantastic. It became rapidly apparent we'd also able to share images much more widely than now.
"We're not live yet but the expected benefits are simple things like being able to see images taken in other organisations. For example as a cancer service we often have patients who have numerous images taken in local hospitals but then will have had an image taken in a tertiary centre like Nottingham.
"Now we can see all those images together really quickly. It will speed up the provision of care. And there are also safeguarding advantages. Individuals who turn up to numerous A&Es with various ailments, bruises, broken bones and bashes - we can see all the images taken there in one place."
Fearn explained that Nottingham decided to join the consortium in order to replace its current picture archiving and communication system (PACS) negotiated under the National Programme for IT (NPfIT).
NPfIT was dismantled in 2010 but many individual component contracts negotiated as part of the deal are still live, including agreements for PACS.
He said: "For me it has been the massive benefit of our National Programme for IT (NPfIT): that everyone has a digital PAC system."
Fearn added: "Because all PACS provision is under NPfIT contracts, it will be coming to end imminently. In Nottingham we needed a replacement. We said 'if everyone's got to go through a procurement exercise, it's expensive. So why not create a consortium to go through procurement?'
"We started trying to save ourselves a bit of money but it became rapidly apparent we'd also able to share images much more widely than now."
"Because we clubbed together and approached this as consortium, we have been able to negotiate significant benefits. It will reduce our costs compared to current spending. We will also have much richer clinical functionality."
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