Healthcare Gateway has won contracts with NHS trusts in Cumbria and Merseyside that will enable GPs to receive hospital discharge summaries via the Medical Interoperability Gateway.

The company, set up by EMIS and INPS, has been running high profile projects in both regions to enable GPs, community, out-of-hours and some hospital staff to share information using the MIG.

More recently, it has been running tests of the electronic discharge functionality from hospitals.

In the Cumbria, this has involved University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, the most high-profile early adopter of CSC’s Lorenzo system, and Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which uses the Infoflex and Mayden systems.

Now, the company has announced that Cumbria Teaching Primary Care Trust and Liverpool Primary Care Trust have signed up for a bigger move to create a paperless e-discharge system.

Clinicians at five acute trusts in North Mersey and Cumbria, using four different IT systems in total, will be able to send electronic discharge information to GPs within 24 hours as a result.

Dr William Lumb, clinical informatics lead for NHS Cumbria, said the electronic system made letter processing ‘very efficient’, and also provided a seamless, transparent audit trail.

“The potential for time saving is enormous,” he said. “If we include all paperwork previously sent to us by hospitals, I estimate this project will save 60,000 hours a year spent in scanning documents across Cumbrian GP practices.”

In Cumbria, the two acute trusts involved in the project are sending e-discharge information to 90 GP practices covering 40,000 patients, with patient permission.

In North Mersey, Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, are sending discharge summaries and other correspondence from their EPOC system to 55 practices using the MIG.

Over the next few months, this will be extended to a further 78 practices covering 700,000 patients.

A further seven providers will also join the service next year: Inclusion Matters (a mental health provider), and The Walton Centre, Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, Alder Hey Children’s Healthcare Hospital, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals, Mersey Care and Southport and Ormskirk Hospital trusts.

Kate Warriner, head of Informatics Mersey said: “This project is a significant step forward in moving acute care settings into a paperless, e-discharge system with all the clinical care benefits this brings.

“It shows that with the right technology in place, we can effect real change in the way we deliver healthcare services to very large patient populations.”

The clinical benefits of the move are expected to include better management for patients with long-term conditions, and fewer ‘lost’ letters, since the hospital doctors will get an electronic ‘receipt’ when the GP opens and deals with the information sent through the system.

Dr William Lumb said: “There is a clear clinical benefit from the timely arrival of a high-quality discharge summary.

“The majority of electronic discharges from Cumbrian hospitals will be for patients on four or more medications with multiple long-term conditions, who by definition require complex care.

Peter Anderson, managing director of Healthcare Gateway, said the projects were “first class examples” of the company’s work in joining up clinicians using a variety of different systems and “improving the patient’s journey through care pathways.”