Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust has procured a vendor neutral archive from BridgeHead Software to store images from its picture archiving and communications system.

The trust’s contract for its existing PACS and radiology information system, procured under the National Programme for IT, is due to run out in June 2014. A new Carestream PACS and RIS, procured after the VNA, will be implemented next year.

The new VNA is based on the XDS standard, which means that, as well as storing radiology images, it will be able to store images from other specialities such as endoscopy and medical photography.

“When we did the procurement, it was about looking at the strategic potential of the VNA,” a trust spokesperson said. “If and when we put other ‘ologies’ on, it will be beneficial to patients that a clinician is seeing a more rounded view of their images, rather than working in silos.”

The adoption of a VNA will make it simpler to change PACS systems in future, she added. “We’ll own that data, we’ll have access to that data and we won’t have to do any more migrations of this nature, irrespective of what PACS provider we have.”

The VNA could also be used as part of Gateshead’ Health’s business continuity strategy. “Whenever we have to do upgrades or get unexpected downtime on the PACS, the potential is there to use the VNA to maintain that level of service to clinicians,” the spokesperson explained.

In the long term, the trust may opt for a full implementation of BridgeHead’s Healthcare Data Management solution, of which the VNA is a subset.

This would enable Gateshead Health to keep all its clinical and administrative data in one place, so that applications such as its Medway electronic patient record system could search for all data relating to a particular patient.


Gateshead Health is now in the process of localising the PACS data currently held in a central data store by Accenture, the local service provider appointed by the NPfIT to manage the PACS contract.

Realising that the process of transferring the PACS data from the CDS over the N3 network could take up to ten months, particularly as other trusts would be going through the same process, the trust decided instead to transfer the images from its own local tape copy of the CDS data to the BridgeHead VNA. This process, which is about 75% complete, is expected to take only 12 weeks.

When the PACS data was stored by the LSP, the process of retrieving old studies for comparison purposes was often slow, the spokesperson said.

“We’re hoping that because the long-term storage is going to be more local that it’s going to improve performance, which should improve things for the patients in terms of getting more timely reports.”

The next stage in implementation will be to migrate the data into a vendor neutral format for use in the PACS, which is expected to go live in May 2014.