NHS Wales has signed a contract for a common picture archiving and communications service from Fujifilm.

The seven-year contract is worth around £20m. It will eventually be used to replace existing PACS systems, while images are held in a central archive so they are available on demand to all NHS hospitals in Wales.

At the moment, Wales has 13 different PACS contracts in place. A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman told eHealth Insider that health boards will move across to the new system once these contracts expire.

NHS Wales believes it will achieve savings of £15m across the lifetime of the contract.

Some of this will come from efficiency savings generated by the faster availability of digital images, which will no longer need to be transfered between sites using file transfers or CDs.

Welsh health minister Lesley Griffiths said: “Since digital imaging was introduced into our hospitals some years ago, we have seen how immediate access to medical images can improve the speed and effectiveness of diagnosis.

“However, problems in sharing images between organisations because systems were not compatible meant we have not been able to realise the full benefits of this technology.

“This is an excellent example of public service organisations working as one to deliver real benefits for the people of Wales.

“By working together to buy a common service through a framework contract, significant savings can be achieved.”

Fujifilm was chosen by representatives from Wales’ local health boards and Velindre NHS Trust, with the procurement managed by the NHS Wales Informatics Service.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board, the largest health organisation in Wales, will be the first to go live with the new service this autumn.

Dr Keith Griffiths, executive director of therapies and health science at the board and chair of the PACS programme board said: “This contract will allow images used for the diagnosis and monitoring of disease to be interpreted and stored in the same system across the whole of Wales.

“A team at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board completed the work in under 18 months and will be first to install the system.

“This framework agreement with Fujifilm not only modernises the way these images are interpreted and stored but allows significant financial savings to be made across all the Welsh health boards.”

However, another of the big health boards, Cardiff and Vale University, announced just last month that it had signed a four year contract extension with Agfa HealthCare for PACS and radiology information systems for its nine hospitals.

At the time, Grant Witheridge, general manager of Agfa HealthCare UK, said: “We are delighted that [the health board has] chosen to remain with Agfa against a competitive market, including national radiology initiatives across Wales.”