Valuable lessons have been learned from the first wave of trusts exiting national PACS and RIS contracts, Alasdair Thompson has told the annual meeting of the UK Imaging Informatics Group at EHI Live 2013.

Thompson, the manager of the National PACS Programme, said that 84 trusts had procured new digital imaging systems in the first wave of the refresh, which was triggered by the end of the contracts placed as part of the National Programme for IT in the NHS a decade ago.

He added that this had involved moving huge amounts of data from local service provider systems to locally contracted systems.

“We can’t underestimate the challenge involved in the data migration,” he said. For that reason, it was important to start early. “Think when you need to start, and start a year earlier,” he said.

The Department of Health has been managing the refresh, by giving trusts in some LSP areas the option to extend their contracts, and working with NHS Supply Chain to create a framework contract for procurements.

This enables trusts to make either ‘tactical’ decisions or more strategic ones; either sticking with their existing suppliers or moving to new companies. Most trusts have done the former, although some have opted for new systems, particularly in the PACS space.

Some trusts that have opted to take new RIS systems have found deployment difficult. But Thompson argued it was important to be realistic.

“You can’t have 84 trusts going through the process and do everything perfectly. You’re going to have to understand the risk of delaying the data migration versus the risk of going live without all the data.”

When it came to procurement, said Thompson, there were obvious advantages in forming a consortium, both from a financial point of view and in terms of being able to share data between trusts.

Thomson also emphasised the importance of considering exit plans while creating the contract – something many trusts neglect to do, he said.

“When you get to the end of your contract, what are you going to do? How are you going to get the data out?

"You need to say to the supplier, ‘I need a safe secure way to get my PACS and RIS data out of your system if I move to someone else in future.’”

He advised trusts not to develop a “them-and-us” attitude to suppliers, but to have an open, transparent relationship.

PACS managers should constantly remind senior managers of the exit deadline he added. “Drumming those messages home is critical.”

Finally, he said, make sure that any contractors brought in to iron out problems shared their knowledge “Suck out their brains. Get them to jot down everything they know, otherwise you rehire them in three years’ time.”