The Department of Health has given the go ahead to a Cerner upgrade across London and the South of England that had stalled over concerns over data transfer from the UK to the US.

E-Health Insider understands that the upgrade, which was originally meant to happen in February, was put on hold while the DH considered data security issues and legal issues around letting Kansas City-based Cerner update trust operating systems.

Health minister Simon Burns has now signed off the upgrade, which will allow those who operate the centre to view patient information if necessary.

In a statement the DH said: "We have given this decision careful consideration and it has only been taken following the support of the Information Commissioner, the NHS trusts concerned and the Cabinet Office Information Assurance Delivery Group.

“We will be inviting the Information Commissioner’s Office to additionally audit the controls under which staff in the US Upgrade Centre operate if they temporarily need to view patient data."

The trusts in London that will receive the upgrade are Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust, Barts and The London NHS Trust, and Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust.

Those that will receive the upgrade in the South are Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Weston Area Health NHS Trust, Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre NHS Trust, Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, and Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust.

Winchester and Eastleigh will be the first to receive the upgrade and is expected to do so by the end of 2010.

The DH added: “It is important to note that patient data is still stored in England and though it can be viewed from the upgrade centre in the USA, it will not be stored there and cannot be downloaded or copied from there.

“We are confident that using the centre, which has an internationally recognised ‘safe harbour’ status, is fully acceptable and will maintain patient confidentiality.

"This is the best way to ensure better clinical information systems are put in place which improve patients safety and that unnecessary costs and delays are avoided.”

A spokesperson for Cerner told E-Health Insider that the code upgrade is part of a larger process that will take the trusts to a newer configuration.

Specific improved functionality depends on what each trust designed during their MethodM project; a process in which Cerner engages with a trust to provide a tailor-made system.