Too many trusts exiting their national PACS/RIS systems contracts are leaving “time-critical tasks” to the end of their exit plans, the Health and Social Care Information Centre has said.

Speaking at the UK Radiological Congress in Manchester, Moira Crotty, the HSCIC’s PACS programme manager, said she encouraged trusts to work collaboratively on procurement to share their resources.

Crotty said she believes trusts have learned a number of lessons from the first wave of exits, in which 84 trusts procured new digital imaging systems triggered by the end of the contracts placed as part of the National Programme for IT in the NHS a decade ago.

However, she said trusts need to realise that the exits will take longer than they expect, and budget their time accordingly to ensure they do not run into issues closer to their exit date.

“There’s an awful lot of people building in time-critical tasks at the end of the programme. If that works, then that’s fine, but if not then you’re in trouble.

“However long you think it’s going to take, it will take longer – we’ve found that time and time again.”

Crotty said data migration is a particularly time-consuming part of exits, due to the lack of standardisation in the migration process and the problems that can arise as a result.

She said collaboration can benefit trusts who want to share their resources during the procurement process, with a number of trusts setting up consortia to procure a new PACS or RIS.

“You can share issues, share resources, share expertise and ensure everyone has ‘skin in the game’ – some sort of financial or emotional investment to keep them interested.”

This comes as Dr Tony Newman-Sanders, the HSCIC’s clinical lead for the programme said last month that he was surprised by the lack of collaboration between trusts.

Crotty said trusts need to establish clear routes of communication between its ingoing and outgoing suppliers, as well as any other relevant parties like a vendor neutral archive supplier, to ensure there are no misunderstandings during a changeover.

“The cut-over plan can’t just be between you and the incoming supplier, you need the outgoing supplier as well, and it’s the trusts that act as the glue in discussions. You get them in the room, lock the door and try to get an agreement.”

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, trusts are now required to buy their own systems.

There are 43 remaining trusts who must exit their contracts by 2016, with London trusts needing to exit by June 2015.