PACS rollout to be completed by 2008

  • 22 May 2007

All hospitals in England will receive new Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS) by 2008, the Department of Health has announced.

The announcement yesterday (21 May) kicked off a week-long promotion campaign for technology in the NHS in which health ministers will be showcasing and promoting the benefits of using “cutting edge technology” in trusts to improve patient safety.

Health secretary, Patricia Hewitt, started the week by visiting the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, London to see the digital x-ray system in action, which has been in use since 2005.

The original target date for completion of the PACS roll-out was 2007. Though this has slipped a little, PACS is still seen as one of the major successes of the National Programme for IT.

Hewitt said: “The NHS leads the way in using digital x-rays, which are not yet being used by all leading healthcare providers. This new system is helping doctors do what they do best – treat patients faster and better- and will provide NHS users with a first class 21st century service.”

The DH says the NHS is saving over £6.2m by using PACS in the first year of service. Savings in London are said to be around £250,000 per year for each trust in the capital.

Hewitt added: “The digital image will follow the patient wherever they go and will be able to be recalled whenever and wherever they need to be accessed by a patient’s healthcare professional.

“Hospitals will no longer have to pay for film, doctors will be able to diagnose treatment quicker and patients will receive a faster, better service.”

Accompanying Hewitt on the visit was Connecting for Health chief executive, Richard Granger. He said that PACS proves that the national programme is not just about computer systems.

“The National Programme for IT is not just about computers – it is about patients and it is about supporting NHS staff to deliver the best possible patient care. The achievement with digital imaging here in London is an important part of the bigger picture in which hundreds of new systems have already been installed, benefiting tens of thousands of clinicians and millions of patients.”

At present, around 39m patients benefit from PACS, with systems deployed in around 80% of NHS trusts. Deployments in London and the South are complete.

Diagnosis times nationally using the PACS systems have been halved from more than six days to less than three, the DH says.

Hewitt said the DH would be looking at NHS innovations all week to demonstrate the benefits of technology in the NHS.

“This is just one of many NHS innovations that we will be promoting this week to showcase how we are using cutting edge technology to improve patient care and change lives.”

BT today started a national newspaper advertising campaign to publicise PACS in London using the slogan "Your NHS doctor will never look at you in the same way again."

Connecting for Health is due to launch the National Health Informatics Week today (22 May) at the ASSIST/NHS Connecting for Health Annual Conference in Leeds.

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