NHS England will spend some of the £260m Technology Fund on further exploring the creation of an NHS version of the US Veterans Health Association’s open source electronic medical record, VistA.

EHI revealed last week that senior figures from NHS England have visited the US to see VistA in action.

The guidance that NHS England issued today on creating ‘integrated digital care records’ suggests they came back impressed.

The guidance, which lays out the direction for electronic patient records in the NHS and explains how trusts can access Technology Fund money, notes that many open source projects are already under way across the health service in England.

Despite this, it says that “we are looking to adopt some of ethos behind [VistA’s] creation and potentially part, or all, of the technical product, in combination with others, to generate ‘NHS VistA’.”

The guidance says that trusts interested in getting involved with “the initial pilot of ongoing development and implementation of NHS VistA” can indicate this on the application form for Technology Fund money.

The technology fund was launched by health secretary Jeremy Hunt in May, and was initially billed as being for e-prescribing.

Today’s guidance makes it clear that the money will go on a wider range of technology and integration projects; although all the money must be spent by March 2015.

‘Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards: achieving an integrated digital care records’ says the NHS England wants to create a “vibrant market” of national solutions and products that are available under open source licensing arrangements.

It argues this will reduce the costs associated with software licensing and open up opportunities for NHS organisations to collaborate on the development and improvement of products.

To support this, the guidance says NHS England will “draw together” information about existing solutions, such as the Open Eyes development at Moorfields Eye Hospital, and the open source portals being developed in Leeds and at King’s College Hospital in London.

It will publish information about the projects and “look closely” at how other open source solutions can be used in the NHS.

Despite this endorsement of local open source work, the guidance also says NHS England is undertaking an “initial assessment” of VistA, which was developed by the VA back in the 1980s, with a view to gauging how much work would be required to make it work for the NHS.

NHS England would like to develop a ‘core’ NHS VistA product and then use further funds to “ensure ongoing innovation and development.” An online NHS VistA lobby group has put the costs of Anglicising VistA at £20m.

Read EHI editor Jon Hoeksma’s opinion that NHS VistA is a distraction and the NHS England should have more firmly backed local open source projects.