The Department of Health has announced a new toolkit that will allow trusts and other developers to create and share new IT products.

The announcement was made by chief information officer for health Christine Connelly, who compared the new toolkit to Apple’s iPhone ‘app store.’

The DH said the tookit will “allow new products to be developed locally, accredited centrally and linked to existing deployments of information systems such as Cerner and Lorenzo.” It also said work on the “pioneering initiative” will be complete by the end of March next year.

In her keynote speech to this year’s Healthcare Computing conference, Connelly said she had concluded that “all the core aims” of the National Programme for IT in the NHS should be retained, along with its existing procurement model.

But she added: “We should be thinking about information and the way we manipulate it as two different things.

“So we will still be deploying large complex systems, but we also intend to create a toolkit that will allow others to come in, develop it, manipulate it and use it, and also allow them to do that locally.”

Connelly said discussions with trusts had shown they wanted more flexibility in the way they adopted new systems, including those being delivered by NPfIT. She said the toolkit would encourage flexibility, while allowing lessons to be learned by other organisations.

“We need to give the trusts much more control over their local configuration. We expect people to share what they have done and it’s important for us to facilitate that sharing.”

Connelly continued: “We want to do this because we feel it will allow trusts to add more value to the work they’ve done by implementing one of the core systems in their environment.

“They don’t need to wait then for the National Programme to decide that the functionality they want is important enough to get on the national list, they could decide to pick them up and do it themselves.”

Paul Jones, chief technology officer for the Department of Health said: “People naturally want to share and learn from each other. If we make it possible to join the dots, I don’t think we have an issue about secrecy and propriety here and people will be happy to share the applications.”