The lack of collaboration between trusts on picture archiving and communication systems deals is surprising, the clinical lead for the National PACS Programme has said.  

The installation of PACS and radiology information systems, bought centrally through five contracts for clusters of regions, was one of the more successful elements of the National Programme for IT and resulted in the number of English acute trusts using PACS and RIS trebling from 42 to 128.

However, the national programme’s decade-long contracts with the cluster providers began to expire last year, and unlike some central deals, such as NHSmail and the GP Systems of Choice framework, trusts are now required to buy their own systems.

Speaking at the NHS Supply Chain’s PACS/RIS event in Doncaster last week, Dr Tony Newman-Sanders, the HSCIC’s clinical lead for the programme, said there has been less collaboration between trusts than he expected in establishing new contracts.

He said that these can help groups of trusts provide seven-days-a-week diagnostic imaging services, by letting radiology staff from any trust in a group provide cover.

 “I think we all underestimated the technical and information governance challenges,” said Dr Newman-Sanders.

He added that collaboration makes sense, due to the rapidly-increasing number images, increasing specialisation among radiologists and the need to provide analysis of images within 24 hours, including at weekends.

Jason Lavery, NHS Supply Chain’s trading director of capital solutions said that 84 trusts have placed contracts worth £69m covering 146 projects through its framework, which was set up to help trusts leave deals established under the National Programme for IT.

“We will continue to support the exit from the national programme. What we’d like to do is bring a little more co-ordination to that exit,” he said, and added that it risked being something of a “tsunami” otherwise.

He added that there was a myth that the framework did not allow collaborative purchases between groups of trusts, saying that Supply Chain is very happy to work with groups.

Several speakers at the event spoke in favour of collaborative purchasing, while accepting it was difficult to trusts to set this up for reasons including difficulties in synchronising procurements and information governance.

Professor Erika Denton, HSCIC’s medical director for the National PACS programme, told the conference that she expects the vast majority of trusts to have move to local contracts by summer 2015.

In London, the local service provider contracts were due to end in June this year, but to avoid a rush of trusts going to the market at the same time, the HSCIC placed trusts in three separate exit phases: before June 2014; by the June expiry date, and continuation of service until June 2015 or further.

“Market capacity has been a specific issue, but PACS and RIS vendors have stepped up magnificently,” said Denton.  

She added that 47 trusts will get transitional help in exciting the contract in June this year.