Primary care systems supplier EMIS has purchased clinical software supplier Ascribe for £57.5m.

The purchase of Ascribe, a pharmacy and e-prescribing software specialist, is by far the largest acquisition yet made by AIM–listed EMIS.

The deal will significantly strengthen the position of EMIS in the increasingly competitive NHS clinical software market for hospital, community and mental health systems.

Chris Spencer, chief executive officer of EMIS Group, said in a statement: “The acquisition of Ascribe represents a significant milestone in our stated strategy of providing clinically led, integrated cross-organisational healthcare systems.

"It represents a rare opportunity to acquire multiple significant positions in an adjacent but not overlapping market.”

In a market statement, EMIS said that it believes there are “significant growth prospects in the combined business”, resulting from the “failure of the National Programme for IT”, the need to meet the £20 billion savings of the ‘Nicholson Challenge’, and “the recently announced £1 billion NHS interoperability challenge fund."

EMIS is the market leader in primary care systems, with GP market share of 52.4% and high street pharmacy market share of 39.4%. However, it faces increasing competition to deliver integrated solutions that enable information sharing between different parts of health and social care.

Ascribe, which has grown through a series of acquisitions, has a range of clinical software products covering e-prescribing, pharmacy, mental health, patient administration and A&E systems.

The company is said to have products used in 75% of the 243 UK NHS trusts and boards.

The government has recently announced one billion pounds of investment will be made over the next few years in upgrading clinical software systems that improve patient safety and information sharing.

Stephen Critchlow, chief executive officer of Ascribe said in a statement that EMIS was the “natural partner” for Ascribe. “Our shared vision is for patients to benefit from all information collected about their health and care across, primary, secondary, social and community settings.”

The acquisition from private equity firm ECI is for an initial consideration of £57.5m, with a further £3m in payments contingent on performance.

In August, EMIS announced it had completed the acquisition of digital retinopathy specialist Digital Healthcare for £3.1m. The largest previous EMIS acquisition was for Rx Systems, bought for £10m in 2010.

In the financial year ending 31 December 2012, EMIS made an operating profit of £22.8m on revenue of £86.3m.