Trusts are usually responsible for procuring their own IT systems, but NHSX has created a centralised programme to procure and fund the adoption of EPRs at seven trusts
"These exciting projects will not just help the seven selected trusts deliver better care for their patients and a better experience for their staff, but it will also help those other NHS organisations looking at EPR procurement.” Sonia Patel, chief information officer, NHSX
Seven trusts have been chosen to take part in a centralised approach for buying IT equipment, in order to speed up the rate of digitisation in the NHS.
Despite increasing numbers of trusts adopting electronic patient record systems (EPR), there are some that still use paper-based records, which prove a barrier to efficiency. Last month Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, told the Commons health and social care committee that as many as one in five were relying on paper systems.
NHSX, which is responsible for technology policy in the NHS, has decided that seven trusts will each receive £250,000 to create a business case for adopting EPR systems. NHS will oversee the projects and provide funding, matched by each trust, to cover the cost of the EPRs.
In the early 2000s, the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) was created with the aim of developing an EPR that could be used nationally by every trust. After 10 years, it ended as an expensive failure and was described in 2011 by the Public Accounts Committee as “one of the worst and most expensive contracting fiascos ever”.
Since then, trusts have had individual responsibility over their EPR procurement, though since 2017 they have been guided by an NHS England procurement framework.
Two years ago, NHSX set up the Digital Aspirant programme. The new project involving the seven trusts has been named Digital Aspirant Plus. The idea is that when the trusts procure their EPRs, they will be able to build “tools” based on what they’ve learnt that can then be used by other NHS trusts.
Digital Aspirant Plus has two workstreams: the EPR accelerator project, for acute trusts which do not have full EPRs, and the innovator project, for community and mental health trusts which have EPRs in place, but where there is potential to “innovate around new functionalities and capabilities”. This could include remote access to systems, remote monitoring, and interoperability.
The four acute trusts are:
The three community and mental health trusts are:
Sonia Patel, chief information officer at NHSX, told HSJ: “EPRs are complex and expensive to procure. We want to positively shape the EPR market in England and help local NHS organisations procure new, modern solutions and drive wider innovation in the market.
“These exciting projects will not just help the seven selected trusts deliver better care for their patients and a better experience for their staff, but it will also help those other NHS organisations looking at EPR procurement.”
The trusts are expected to go out to tender by next summer.