Trusts should think of PACS as marriage

NHS trusts have been urged to think very carefully about ‘getting into bed’ with a new picture, archiving and communications system suppliers as national contracts come to an end.

Dr Neelum Dugar, chair of the Royal College of Radiologists Imaging Informatics Group told eHealth Insider that trusts are apprehensive about embarking on procurement for new systems as the tender process is “very scary."

Contracts established under the National Programme for IT in the NHS come to an end in 2013 for most of the country, and 2015 in London – meaning that trusts need to start thinking now about how they are going to move to new contracts.

Jim Wood from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust told the group, which held its autum meeting at EHI Live 2011, that trusts needed to think long-term.

“When you get into bed together, you are looking for partners who can develop a relationship, and it’s important that you think long term.

"You should be thinking of buying for 20 years; please don’t commit to 20 years, but think about buying for 20, and committing to maybe ten.”

He also urged trusts to carefully set out the exact criteria they wanted suppliers to deliver on, but not judge them solely on those promises.

“Every bidder will say ‘yes I can do x’, but it’s how they are going to do that which is important.”

Wood said that a key failing of the national programme contracts was inadequate exit strategies, and he urged trusts to consider how they would migrate data if they needed to leave a contract or change suppliers when a contract concluded.

The costs of that should also be included within the initial contract, not as an added extra. He said he had also seen problems when it came to implementing the new systems.

“What I find quite often is that once people have got over the procurement process, we're all happy… but there comes a point at implementation, or a few months into that, when things can become a bit tetchy.

“There needs to be a very clear plan for how the projects are going to be implemented.”

Tony Corbett from Cloud 21 said project teams needed to have the support of their organisations behind them before embarking on a procurement.

“This is a not a light process, this is an intense process and to make it work properly you need to have the organisation’s support to do so.”

Trusts should encourage potential suppliers to come on site for visits: “You really want them to feel they know what you want and will work with you on this.”

Last updated: 8 November 2011 19:53

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