Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is working with consultancy ReStart to develop an open source portal to give clinicians a single view of data held in its PAS and departmental systems.

The trust, which is one of the largest in the country, has a five year, £35m strategy to invest in IT, and is looking to an integration and portal approach to make up for “underinvestment” during the National Programme for IT in the NHS.

As a Yorkshire trust, Leeds benefited from NHS Yorkshire and the Humber’s decision to take a strategic approach to integration, and to make the InterSystems Ensemble integration engine available to trusts in the region.

But Tony Shannon, a consultant in emergency medicine, and the trust’s clinical lead for informatics, told eHealth Insider that it wanted to take an open source approach to creating a portal.

“We wanted to try and get collaboration between the in-house development team and the private sector,” he said. “We wanted to work in partnership with a private company, but to pay them for the service they provided.

“We also wanted to own the code so we could take it elsewhere if we needed to, and share the results with others. In that way, we are trying to do something different.”

Shannon explained that he worked for NHS Connecting for Health on both the Lorenzo electronic patient record, which was due to be deployed to the North, Midlands and East of England by CSC, and on a project to bring clinicians and IT experts together to develop standards for clinical systems.

He became convinced that the two groups found it hard to find common ground in part, at least, because vendors were locked into proprietary systems.

He now chairs the clinical review board of the openEHR Foundation, which is a not-for-profit company, backed by University College London, which is looking to develop open specifications, software and other resources for electronic health records.

The Leeds project – called Protean – is in a pilot phase. The initial aim is to link five key systems: iSoft’s PatientCentre PAS; the trust’s own Patient Pathway Manager, which is used in the oncology department, and software from Bluespier, Ascribe and EMIS.

So far, three systems have been integrated. The aim is to complete the pilot and report to the trust board on the project’s potential next month.

The portal was developed using the Eclipse software development environment. The server layer uses Java programming, while the presentation layer uses Sencha’s Ext JS to create an open source rich internet application layer framework; allowing users to access portal tools through a browser.

Tools included in the portal include a user dashboard and patient search tab. Sean Connelly, principal consultant at ReStart, said it hopes to take the clinical portal to the NHS and make it freely available to other trusts. ReStart will offer integration and support services for deployments.

Shannon said there was international interest in open source, as shown by the development of the openEHR Foundation, the openhealthtools.org website, and the recent announcement by the Veteran’s Association in America that it wants to release its electronic patient record as an open source platform and build a development community around it.

He also predicted increased interest in the NHS as demands to make £20 billion efficiency savings bite. “In these straightened times, the challenge to us is to share, re-use and recycle,” he said. “The NHS needs to stop paying to reinvent the wheel.”