Radiologists and PACS managers have called for greater clarity about the future of local service provider PACS contracts, which come to an end in January 2013 in most of England.

Speaking at eHealth Insider Live on Monday, Dr Nick Hollings, the outgoing treasurer of the UK PACS and Teleradiology Group, said: “There has been no lead from the government on this and we need some.

“We need to get our collective thinking hats on and decide whether we want to continue in regional consortia or whether we are brave enough to go it alone.”

He warned that ‘go it alone’ carried a risk that suppliers would be overwhelmed. “Come July 2012, when we have six months to go on the contracts, everybody will be contacting suppliers and they will be over stretched.”

Nicola Strickland, registrar of the Royal College of Radiologists, agreed that there was a real need for guidance from government, but pointed out that contracts come to an end in London in 2015.

A network of regional representatives from the college had recently met the NHS IT agency, NHS Connecting for Health, but had not received clear answers about the government’s future intentions, she said.

“It is up to this group to specify what we need,” she told a capacity audience at the UK PACS and Teleradiology Group’s meeting, which was co-located with EHI Live 2010.

Strickland added that there was also a need for clear national guidance on managing supply and demand for radiology reporting and called for a regional network of specialist radiologists to supply reports.

“There is a supply mismatch,” she said. “We are all becoming more and more specialist and we cannot continue to supply the whole gamut of reports in every hospital. If we are to sustain the stroke and trauma units we will have to move on this one.”

She said that regional networks of radiologists who know and trust each other was preferable to out sourcing to the private sector, which could involve reports being written by overseas radiologists of unknown quality.

A DH spokesperson told EHI: "Reprocurement of PACS and RIS services are being considered as part of routine contract management. Options for this are being considered with stakeholders, including the NHS and the supplier community."

She added: "The developing XDS-I standard for interoperability is one of the areas

being reviewed as part of the future options."

Earlier at the EHI Live 2010 event, the group had called for the XDS-I standard to be used to ensure interoperability between PACS and RIS systems and other systems.