Ascribe, the healthcare IT group, today announced its entry into the patient administration system market with the acquisition of Barwick Systems in a £2m cash deal.

Barwick Systems provides software to 13 hospitals around the UK, many of which also use Ascribe’s pharmacy or accident & emergency systems.

Ascribe said: “This acquisition enables Ascribe to offer a complete administration and clinical system to a hospital for the first time. Barwick has recently signed a contract to replace a legacy PAS system at an NHS trust where the national programme has been unable to deliver. Together with the software from Ascribe a total solution can be offered to meet all the needs facing clinicians and managers today.”

Stephen Critchlow, executive chairman of Ascribe, which has been listed on the Alternative Investment Market since 2004, said: "This acquisition is immediately earnings enhancing, but more importantly is a strategic move to place Ascribe in the patient administration system market.

“Patient information systems are a crucial component of the government’s healthcare agenda. The Ascribe offering will now enable trusts to integrate their departmental systems with their administrative systems and also have a system that can be compliant with all national initiatives. Ascribe is now well placed to meet all the IT needs of our healthcare customers.”

Critchlow, who qualified as a pharmacist and initially developed systems for medicines management, told E-Health Insider: “If you provide software at the point-of-care – a bit like Bill Gates provided at the desktop – all the rest will follow.”

He is openly sceptical of England’s large scale approach to IT modernisation and says he doubts whether the NHS can cope with the change management required.

“We [Ascribe] are not following a political trend. What we are doing is improving patient care in everything we do,” he said.

Referring to recent news about problems in Cerner’s first national programme implementation at the National Orthopaedic Centre, Oxford, he commented: “Is it the customers or the suppliers? To me it’s just the model that’s wrong.”

Critchlow explained that the Ascribe group has taken what used to be called legacy systems and are now referred to as ‘existing’ systems and integrated them so that patients have a common record. In addition to integrating within the group, there are alliances with other vendors such as System C whose Medway PAS is, for example, able to interface with Ascribe’s medicines management and nurse administration systems. Choose and Book compliance has also been achieved across the group.

Ascribe is small by the standards of the major international healthcare IT companies, but it growing fast and is forecasting a £10m turnover for the current year. Its interim results, published at the same time as news of the Barwick acquisition broke, showed a turnover of £4.5m – a 176% increase on 2004.