The discharge summary target

NHS Connecting for Health has invited suppliers to help develop and test standards for electronic discharge summaries in an extension to its interoperability toolkit programme.

Suppliers have until 31 March this year to complete proof of concept proposals; just one day before the Department of Health target that all NHS trusts should be delivering discharge summaries to GPs within 24 hours comes into force.

The majority of trusts are widely expected to miss the target, with some suppliers suggesting that as few as 20% of hospitals will be delivering discharge summaries within 24 hours by next April.

EHI Primary Care understands that the main problem trusts have been facing has not been generating the letter, but delivering it from hospital to GP practice – something the standards are designed to tackle.

The DH IT agency’s documentation says a key objective is to prove the new emerging standard definition and to support and accelerate introduction of electronic discharge summaries to interoperability toolkit standards across NHS England.

It adds: “Electronic discharge summaries are a key Clinical 5 objective under the DH Operating Framework for 2010.”

CfH said successful proof of concept projects would need to successfully send and receive real discharge summaries between different systems in accordance with the toolkit standards by 31 March.

Suppliers will also be expected to demonstrate how their solution can be replicated “economically, beneficially and rapidly at scale across the NHS.”

The document says a bonus success criterion for any project would be that integration is achieved in a live NHS trust environment; although NHS customer involvement is not a pre-requisite for a candidate project.

The document says projects are expected to be supplier led but should be aligned with and coordinate a wider team of acute, middleware and primary care supplier partners.

It adds: “The solution must clearly demonstrate interoperability between different supplier systems as part of the end-to-end solution.”

Philip Young, director at document management specialists PCTI, said the message would provide a consistent standard in delivering electronic discharge solutions across England.

He added: "Having been involved in the development of the message we’re very much looking forward to receiving it into an existing EDT Server deployment in order to participate in the proof of concept phase. 

"Our intention is to demonstrate multi vendor discharge documents, created in the new message format and for these to be collected and delivered to GP practices using differing clinical platforms using our proven EDT technology."

CfH said the scope of the interoperability toolkit, announced in April last year by DH chief information officer Christine Connelly, had been extended and that there was an opportunity to include additional proof of concepts for a wider range of NHS systems.

It released the first ‘layer’ of the toolkit in September, based on about 22 messaging standards plus guidance.

Chief technology officer Paul Jones told E Health Insider that the toolkit had the potential to drive down the cost of interoperability and innovation an open up the NHS IT market to new players.

Suppliers interested in submitting a proof of concept proposal for electronic discharge summaries are asked to immediately register their interest, with proposals submitted no later than Monday 8 February.

Proofs of concept will be expected to meet all success criteria by 31 March and CfH said it would evaluate the proofs of concept and report by 30 April 2010.