NHS Scotland has gone live with a project to bring all of its 22 health boards on to the same version of a shared financial system from Advanced Business Solutions.

The bodies completed their migration to Advanced’s shared financial management system in December 2008, but were operating on different versions of the system.

In April, seven health boards – NHS Tayside, NHS Forth Valley, NHS Highland, NHS Fife, NHS Borders, NHS Western Isles and Scottish Ambulance Service – moved to the single platform.

Phase two of the project will bring a further seven health boards on to the service with a planned go-live of 1 October, while the final eight health boards will be live by April next year.

Shared Support Services Programme national finance systems lead, Don Millard, said the move to all boards operating on the same “instance” of the product is significant as this allows the real savings of the programme to be realised.

“This is definitely the key event for us because it allows us to consider national processing of transactions,” he said.

“Now we have standardised coding structures, one database and all the business processes are very, very similar.”

The boards each pay for the system independently, with costs expected to be recouped within two years of the April 2012 go-live. Millard said the savings are in the millions, but could not give an exact figure.

“We are beginning to explore the false barriers that now exist between health boards’ processing and to say ‘do you really need to have invoices processed in every health board region throughout the country or can we have them processed in a much more limited way on behalf of all health boards’,” he explained.

The effort needed in terms of managing technical services is also less and smaller boards get a higher level of support because of the shared service.

Millard said the latest phase of the project is not too costly for the boards as they are entitled to software upgrades as part of the contract with Advanced, which has so far been delivered on time and on budget.

He added that the programme stakeholders have a good relationship with Advanced and with managed technical service provider Atos Origin.

They also work closely with the unions as the changes will impact staff. Millard said there is likely to be an overall reduction in staff numbers because of the new system, but NHS Scotland works to redeploy people elsewhere.

Working in collaboration with 22 health boards is “never easy”, but everyone recognises the potential benefits and the project is “in a good place”, he said.

The success of the programme means they have become an example to others attempting to implement shared services and have provided advice to Northern Ireland.