TubeTwo London primary care trusts have been chosen to work on a pilot project looking at interoperability in polyclinics.

NHS Westminster and NHS Waltham Forest will look at linking up existing systems in use in primary and community care in London, including GP systems from suppliers EMIS and INPS, the RiO community and mental health systems and Adastra software used in out-of-hours services.

Healthcare for London said the project would run until March 2010. The results will be shared across London to support commissioners in delivering better and more integrated information services across ‘polysystems’ – which HfL defined as a polyclinic hub plus GP practices participating in a network.

Jason Kleeman, programme manager for NHS Westminster, said the work would look to link up the major systems that were already in use in the capital to bridge the gap between suppliers and to develop a view patient record.

He added: “The implications for this project are not only within polyclinics for London but for all IT within the NHS.”

Healthcare for London said the two PCTs were chosen following a formal application process that required that they meet certain criteria, including having a polyclinic open by March 2010 and using a mix of IT systems including RiO, INPS Vision and EMIS.

HfL said workshops held with primary care staff and suppliers at the end of last year identified the key challenges faced by PCTs in the delivery of IT and information services for polyclinics.

The three key challenges were identified as creating a single reception booking system with the capability of booking appointments across all polyclinic services, ensuring appropriate access to shared patient records (including diagnostics) across the polysystem, and providing a method of producing robust commissioning and service activity data across the polysystem.

Chris Lambourne, Business Change Lead for polyclinics at HfL, said: “This pilot aims to explore possible future solutions to a range of challenges experienced by PCTs in providing seamless, integrated information as part of their polyclinic services.

"We will be working with NHS Waltham Forest and NHS Westminster on issues such as multiple booking and providing commissioning data. We hope that the results of the pilot will support PCTs in delivering ambitious polyclinic programmes.”

NHS Waltham Forest has already opened a polyclinic and NHS Westminster expects to open the first of its four planned polyclinics near the end of the year.

Kleeman told EHI Primary Care that the work could prove to be a rival to a ‘single system’ approach as it could allow standalone systems to link and therefore provide competition in the market place and still provide a united patient record.

He said NHS Westminster had already done some work on interoperability ahead of the launch of the pilot and he expected work towards a full solution to take another 18 months after the end of the pilot.

He said the project would be focusing on polyclinics but would also be talking to secondary care services which wanted to provide systems in the polyclinics about how they might interoperate.

“We don’t just want to stop at one or two suppliers as it’s in everyone’s interests to work together,” he said.

Kleeman said the work to develop a detailed care record for London was a separate project but that the two pieces of work were based on the same ideals.