University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust has signed a five-year deal with Visbion for a vendor neutral archive to store images and scanned patient notes.

The purchase of the VNA was part of a wider procurement that included a new picture archiving and communications system and radiology information system to replace NPfIT contracts, which expired in June.

The 1200 bed trust joined forces with South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust and George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust to procure the PACS and RIS, but was the only trust to buy a VNA.

Implementation is under way and the trust is scheduled to turn on the live archive feed by the end of August. Within a month or two, all the images will be in the archive.

Charles Yeomanson, Coventry and Warwickshire’s ICT technical director, told EHI the VNA would allow the trust to take a more standards-based approach to storing images.

It will house images from the PACS systems used in breast screening, cardiology, obstetrics and radiotherapy as well as radiology.

“What we want to do is converge all these images, and to bring about cost-efficiencies, storage and management, through putting them into one repository,” said Yeomanson.

It will also enable the trust to avoid time-consuming data migration projects.

“The aim is to decouple the applications from the storage,” said Yeomanson.

“When we went through this exercise of moving off the national solution, we were extracting images from the national archive for the last year. In future, what we don’t want to do – whenever we move supplier – is to take a year to move the data.”

The VNA will also be used to store other kinds of data.

Paper-based case notes will be scanned and imported into the VNA, helping the trust achieve its target of becoming paperless by 2016. The trust will also integrate its electronic patient records system with the VNA.

Yeomanson believed the VNA would offer improved business continuity.

“In the past, if there was a fault or a major upgrade, business continuity went back to printed film or restricted access to images, but now we can provide those images because they are in the archive as well.”

Longer-term, the archive will allow the trust to cull old data.

“Once we’ve got the data in a single repository, in electronic form, the metadata associated with the objects can be used to manage the lifecycle, because we need to comply with health regulatory guidelines.

“Some records have to be kept for 30 years, others eight years. At the moment all our paper notes are kept off site and it’s a very difficult process to say: ‘this record should be deleted now’, and ‘these should be retained’,” Yeomanson added.

“Trust policy at the moment is to retain all of them.”