Three acute trusts are delivering electronic discharge letters to almost 90 GP practices using a shared IT solution that plugs into existing computer systems.

Central and Eastern Cheshire Primary Care Trust has led the initiative, which uses the MedisecNET electronic delivery system from Medisec Software.

The Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, East Cheshire NHS Trust and Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are using the system and between them delivering discharge documentation to 50 out of 54 practices in Central and East Cheshire and all 38 practices in West Cheshire.

Diane Nolder, senior IT project manager at Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Despite using a completely different system to generate our discharge correspondence to the two other trusts in the area, we have still been able to plug into the same delivery network as them, producing a commonality of approach for GPs right across the county.”

Medisec Software said the technology builds on existing systems, giving both hospital and surgery the time-saving efficiencies of electronic delivery without major IT investment.

Managing director Tom Rothwell added: “As the network can potentially collect from any hospital system and deliver to any GP system, the technology is hugely transferable across the NHS and could play a major role in helping acute trusts to meet next year’s 24-hour NHS standard for delivering discharge communications to GPs.”

As part of the overall project Docman and Docman EDT software from document management software specialists PCTI has been rolled out to every GP practice. At the practices Docman EDT handles the collection of all documents from the Medisec server and enables practices to accept these documents directly into Docman for processing and onward filing into the GP clinical system.

 Documents are ‘delivered’ to the practice automatically at pre-defined intervals, which requires no intervention from practice staff.  All incoming documents are received in the same way, irrespective of the source system in secondary care.

Dr Neil Paul, a GP at Ashfields Primary Care Centre in Sandbach, said the initiative had increased the practice’s efficiency as it was quick and simple for staff to authorise and file letters, instead of spending hours scanning in hundreds of documents each week.

He added: “By providing one central electronic funnel which a whole range of providers can drop information into, it allows everyone to talk to one another in a consistent way.

"It means that we get critical clinical information from the hospital overnight rather than it sitting in out-trays, waiting to be printed or being lost in the post.”

PCTI said documents are filed using metadata which provides greater accuracy and consistency for the practice while reducing the administrative system.

The Medisec system also provides  an audit trail from letter generation to delivery, to enable the PCT and hospital to monitor the time taken to deliver discharge letters to GPs.

Patricia Reilly, IM&T clinical systems manager at the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, added: “We can now compare how long it’s taking different specialties and consultants to generate and issue clinical correspondence.

"By identifying backlogs and areas where action is needed, we can improve communications with our GP partners and deliver better patient care.”

Debi Lees, Lees, ICT project manager and business analyst at Cheshire ICT Service, said the PCT now planned to extend the project beyond discharge letters.

She added: “Electronic delivery of discharge documentation has already proved very popular with the GPs but our end game is for every surgery in Cheshire to receive all clinical correspondence, not just discharge forms, in the same way.”