Procurement has started on telepathology technology to enable videoconferencing and image sharing between cancer physicians in the Tees Valley and County Durham.

An OJEC advertisement has been placed for the telemedicine solution which will serve six acute hospitals in the area between Darlington and Durham, covering Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees, Bishop Auckland and Hartlepool.

The solution will enable physicians to discuss their cases across the videolink and view high definition images of radiological film or PACS images along with digital photographs or live feed images of microscope slides.

Teespath IT project manager, David Bottoms, said the system, which is expected to go live this autumn, should save travelling time and expenses for cancer clinicians who have to drive up to 20 miles to attend meetings.

"Some of the cancer care meetings are site specific even though the cancer care is taking place over two sites, so the only way someone can attend is to go 10-20 miles to the meeting. It is difficult for some of the clinicians to attend on a weekly or fortnightly basis."

Videoconferencing and image sharing can also enable pathology teams to share scarce expertise more effectively and Mr Bottoms expects that the facilities will also be available for other uses such as continuing education.

The system will not be unique in the UK, but this kind of telepathology is not widespread. Tees Valley and County Durham are looking for suppliers who have experience of similar NHS projects. Mr Bottoms said a more detailed specification which included expected outcomes was available, but the project was also looking for ideas and innovation. The deadline for responses to the OJEC is 22 May.