A Kent and Medway consortium has signed a contract with GE Healthcare to supply picture archiving and communications and radiology information systems for the next seven years.

The consortium, formed in September 2011, is made up of four hospital trusts: East Kent Hospitals University, Dartford and Gravesham, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, and Medway.

Dai Davies, general manager for pathology and radiology for East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust, and project lead, said that the decision to group into a Kent-wide consortium allowed economies of scale, and also “made a whole load of sense operationally.”

He added: “If you’ve got the same system, you can move images around, so when patients are being treated in the cancer centre at Maidstone, doctors can see the images that were generated in Margate.”

Under the previous contract arranged under the National Programme for IT in the NHS, the hospitals were using a PACS supplied by GE Healthcare and a RIS from HSS. The contract was managed by local service provider CSC.

The consortium sent out the initial pre-qualification questionnaire in January 2012 via the Official Journal of the European Union.

From the initial 20 or so responses, seven suppliers were identified as capable of delivering both PACS and RIS. A tender document was sent out, and the responses underwent a rigorous evaluation, which resulted in GE being selected as the supplier for both PACS and RIS.

“The GE PACS was tried-and-tested and very much loved. And their RIS is a state-of-the-art application – it really worked well.

It was available on other NHS sites in England – we saw it, and it had proven functionality,” said Davies. The high quality of the voice recognition functionality made the GE RICS particularly attractive, he added.

Davies said that a key element of the GE offering was the inclusion of Centricity, a vendor neutral archive, that acts as a repository for unstructured clinical content.

Over time, the aim is to add content from disciplines such as cardiology and pathology, so that clinicians will be able to access all the relevant information about a patient from a single interface.

“The clinical management that this offers has improved. You have the ability as a clinician to have, in one hit, the information at your fingertips that offers you the wide history of this patient,” said Davies. “It becomes uniquely patient-centred.”

All the PACS and RIS data will be stored at an offsite data centre by GE partner Cable and Wireless.

Implementation began in December 2012. Davies said that the process had not always been smooth and that the migration of data from CSC had proved challenging, but that it was on target to be completed by the end of June.