Pilot IT systems have been implemented in two local cancer registries with the intention of improving the quality of the data they report back to the Department of Health.

Merseyside & Cheshire Cancer Registry and Thames Cancer Registry have piloted data capture software that can meaningfully collate data in HL7, XML or CSV formats. The software will make it easier for the Registries to provide required intelligence to the DH, such as quality and outcomes of cancer care, environmental and social factors, evaluation of cancer prevention and screening. This information is centrally collected at the DH and used to formulate policy and investment decisions.

Chris Carrigan, national co-ordinator for England at the National Cancer Action Team, said: "Few people realise that statistics and information on cancer incidence in England originate from the regional cancer registries, and that these organisations have the onerous task of tracking individuals from the point at which they are first diagnosed with the disease.

"This underlines the absolutely critical role the registries play. They are being increasingly focused in wider and more varied roles around cancer data and information."

Carrigan added: "Responding to these challenges will require Registries to process a more expansive dataset, from increasing numbers of electronic sources, with much tighter timescales."

Guy Hayton, head of IT at Merseyside & Cheshire Cancer Registry, said: "Following the success of the two pilot schemes in Merseyside & Cheshire and Thames, the potential exists for a major roll-out across other UK regional registries to provide even greater consistency and accuracy in the provision of information and intelligence for cancer research and prevention."

Phil Birchall, healthcare business development director at Intersystems, who supplied the Ensemble software used in the pilot, said: "We are delighted to be working on such a socially important project that showcases how technically advanced Registries are, and hope to work on similar implementation with other Registries in the near future."