Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has started the process of digitising all of its active patient records as part of a strategy to become paperless.

The trust published its IMT strategy for 2011-15 early last year, which has reducing reliance on paper as one of its key targets.

It has now signed a contract with Kainos for its Evolve 3 records digitisation system and is planning to begin scanning case notes in June this year.

The trust’s assistant director of information, Rob Howorth, told eHealth Insider the project team was considering how to set up the scanning bureau, and how many patient records needed to be scanned.

He said it was intending to do all of the scanning on site and to make use of the trust’s library staff, as they were the most familiar with the notes.

The project is expected to take the trust into a ‘paper-light’ mode of working within the next 18 to 24 months.

At that point, Howorth said it would need to consider whether it wanted to upgrade its current Meditech patient administration system, or go out to procurement.

Howorth said giving clinicians access to digital records would save the trust, on average, £1m per year through more efficient working.

“It is estimated that, on average, medical secretaries spend 20% of their time handling the paper case notes," he said.

"That is an average, so for some secretaries it will be less and for some it will be more. But this will be freeing up that time.”

He added that it was likely that "in the fullness of time" the trust would not need to employ the 20 administration staff it employs to deal with case notes and that they could be deployed to other areas.

Howorth said the fact that Evolve is a web-based system gives the trust more options in how it can give clinicians access to the electronic files.

“Our plan is that we will access either directly on its web interface, or through our Meditech patient administration system.”

Howorth said the trust wanted to get to a position in which it could rely on electronic working; but the technology to do this was not yet available.

It will work towards becoming paper-light, while waiting for the evolution of mobile technology appropriate for clinical settings.