Seven southern trusts are hoping to introduce electronic prescribing and medicines administration with central funding through the Southern Acute Programme.

Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust head of informatics Peter Gill is chair of the group whose outline business case went before the Southern Programme board on Tuesday.

The trusts collaborating to get ePMA are Salisbury, Poole Hospital, Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals, Southern Health, Portsmouth Hospitals, Royal Surrey County Hospital and University Hospitals Bristol.

It is one of six collaborations involving 21 Southern acute trusts which got nothing from the National Programme for IT in the NHS and are hoping to secure central funding for various systems.

The Southern Programme board agreed on Tuesday that each collaborative group can proceed with finalising their outline business cases for formal submission to the board next month.

Gill said the programme was launched at a meeting in March.

“People were encouraged to get together in groups. The rules of the game were very clearly put out to us that to access the Southern Local Clinical Systems money we were expected to form groups of at least three trusts,” he explained.

Most trusts decided on the day who they would work with.

“We hope we will be more attractive to suppliers as a consequence as they can talk to one group of people and access seven trusts,” he said.

Gill described the organisations as “moderately excited” about the programme because of the history of failure for similar projects.

The trusts previously tried to obtain systems through the Additional Supply Capability and Capacity framework.

This fell through in late 2011, however earlier this year the Cabinet Office agreed to fund a community and child health procurement as part of the Southern Programme and the tender was released in August.

“We know this is round three, but the child health tender has given us some confidence,” said Gill.

“No one is green enough to think this is all guaranteed, I think we are OK about that.”

If the business case is passed and central money approved, the plan is to go out to tender this December or January. Gill said there are lots of “ifs and buts”, but predicted a four to six month procurement with contracts signed around late Summer or early Autumn next year.

“I’m reasonably confident that we will access money and reasonably confident that if we didn’t access money, we would continue to pursue it as a trust. I can’t say if other trusts would as well.

“We completely realise that the amount of effort associated with accessing central money is considerable and although we could have potentially augmented our EPR with that money, I was very much convinced it would be more effort than reward on that front,” Gill added.

Salisbury is one of the ‘iSoft7’ trusts in London and the South that chose to stick with their existing iSoft patient administration systems ahead of the NPfIT. The group signed a four-year extension to that deal in March.

Salisbury has since developed a portal called Clinician’s View that displays information from more than 20 of the hospital’s 55 departments.

Gill said the trust is looking at the options for another PAS with the aim of creating an outline business case within six months. It is not planning to collaborate with other trusts on the procurement.

Salisbury has also recently bought the WinDIP electronic document management system from Gateway Computing and is deploying order communications from Indigo 4 Systems over the next few months.