The Electronic Communication of Surveillance in Scotland system, which will be used to alert doctors to superbug outbreaks, will not be launched until next year.

The web-based early warning system was meant to be deployed later this year. However, Health Protection Scotland, the agency responsible for ECOSS, says linking Scottish diagnostic labs to the system will take longer than planned.

A spokesperson for the agency said: “HPS is developing an electronic reporting system called ECOSS that captures laboratory information on a range of infectious agents.

“The next stage is to develop a web based report for laboratories and health protection units. To do this in a meaningful and useful manner, reports must record episodes of infection rather than numbers of tests.

“Defining episodes of infection is relatively straightforward. However, a lot of work must go into developing systems that properly match records and remove duplicates of tests. Developing these systems takes time and skill and Health Protection Scotland is working with the Scottish Government to put a timescale in place for implementation.”

Real time local surveillance and monitoring is already in place in NHS boards. ECOSS will collect all the data and participating laboratories will routinely report all identifications of organisms, infection or microbiological intoxication, unless they are known to be of no clinical or public health importance.

The collected data will be used for the identification of single cases of severe disease, outbreaks, and longer term trends in the incidence of laboratory reported infections; enhanced surveillance; health protection; analytical and statistical use on a national scale.

The spokesperson added: “ECOSS will not replace the need for NHS boards to continue local surveillance to identify cases and clusters of infection of all types that are of public health concern.”

Once at Health Protection Scotland, the data will go through a series of decryption and quality checks, before being analysed. The analysed, quality assured data are then fed back to the diagnostic laboratories for final validation and publishing for all health board staff to be aware of.

The agency says the data obtained through ECOSS will contain additional valuable information on location of patients in acute hospital wards, long-term care facilities and the community and details on antibiotic treatment. Encryption of the data will provide safe exchange and storage of patient identifiable data.

A similar system is already in use across England and Wales and is helping to reduce incidents of c-difficile and MRSA.