A central procurement process has started to ensure that GPs have the right software to handle online pathology reports and results, the NHS Information Authority announced this week.

The roll out of online pathology messaging is due to be completed by the target date of December 2002. The service – the first national system to use public key data encryption – provides a significant contribution to the development of electronic health records.

Simon Withey, the NHSIA’s lead on pathology messaging, said, “These contracts will make it much easier for GPs to upgrade their clinical computer systems and link with pathology laboratories using the new electronic pathology messaging standard.”

Getting pathology messaging online will require 200 pathology laboratories to be connected nationally. They will supply more than 9,000 GP practices.

Management of the contracts and payments to suppliers will rest with the NHSIA, but schedules for the delivery of full local implementations will remain with local health communities.

Ronnie Monaghan, head of industry services and relationships, said, “There is much to be done; however, this business model indicates the potential for using ‘key industry players’ as partners with the NHSIA for the delivery of joined-up information services which meet the NHS strategic targets.”