Version One has announced a new version of its document imaging software used by a number of NHS trusts that allows invoice and purchase order data to be automatically scanned by optical character recognition (OCR).

The DbArchive system, which was announced on Thursday at a briefing at the House of Commons, also features image conversion and storage and web-based document retrieval, along with a module allowing invoices to be authorised or queried via email.

According to Version One’s director Tony Bray, they will initially be aiming the new system at NHS trusts that already use Version One document imaging software. Existing clients of Version One include West London Mental Health NHS Trust and University Hospital Birmingham.

Bray said: "If you look at the whole shared services initiative in the NHS, it’s a serious toll and a vast amount of time and money being spent." He added that back-office services were becoming increasingly fragmented: "With foundation hospitals, they can make their own decisions."

"There’s no doubt there’s consolidation happening within the NHS, there’s also outsourcing the customers to other people," said Bray. "The nice thing is they’re outsourcing the systems to our own customers as well."

The DbArchive system also incorporate XML standards for information transfer and display, and can be used for splicing data into intranets or web applications. Bray said that he hoped more and more public and private sector organisations would adopt the system: "If enough people get behind standards like that, that will drive them forward."

Referring to the automatic capture of data from documents by OCR, Bray said: "Human beings are getting more and more expensive." He added that many people do not spend long periods in jobs that involve repetitive data-entry work. "There’s a lot of ‘churn’."

However, Bray said that he recognised that people will still be slow to implement new back-office technology. "In 10 or 20 years time people will still be sending documents backwards and forwards."