Three NHS trusts have officially become the first members of a community interest company to act as “code custodians” for IMS Maxims’ open source electronic patient record system.

Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust formally signed the agreement to join the CIC last December, and have now received approval from Companies House.

Last March, NHS England said it was looking to set up a number of CICs to act as custodians for open source products introduced to the NHS and undertake activities such as testing and code control.

The CICs are also meant to help less technically able trusts take open source solutions by providing the same assurances as with a proprietary vendor.

IMS Maxims released the code for its openMaxims product suite last June after it decided to make the move to open source.

Malcolm Senior, Taunton and Somerset’s IT director, said the CIC will give organisations and clinicians using openMaxims “a greater level of ownership and control” in the development of the electronic patient record, while encouraging greater collaboration.

“In some respects, we are going back to the days when NHS clinicians worked alongside NHS developers to enhance existing systems and products to maximise the clinical benefits available,” Senior said.

Neil Darvill, director of informatics at St Helens and Knowsley, said the launch of the CIC is an important step in the development of open source technology for the NHS.

“It is fair to say there have been limitations on the speed and flexibility of implementing some systems within healthcare, and we’re establishing the CIC so that best practice is shared and promoted.”

Steve Bloor, Blackpool’s deputy director of information, said the CIC will help to ensure that a “gold standard” of code is maintained for the NHS.

The CIC will be chaired by Jo Cubbon, Taunton’s chief executive, and will meet for the first time in early 2015. Each trust will be able to appoint one director to the board, with equal responsibility for each member.

Clinicians, patient representatives, academics and developers interested in contributing to the software’s continuing development will also be able to join the CIC at the discretion of current members.

Andy Williams, part of NHS England’s open source programme team, said the CIC’s establishment “marks the start of establishing a self-sustaining ecosystem of communities which can develop, deliver and support open source digital services.”

Shane Tickell, chief executive of IMS Maxims, said the CIC shows how healthcare providers and software suppliers can work together more closely, using open technology.

“I hope that by sharing and promoting best practice amongst clinicians, developers and patient advocates, we will see faster development of code to enable improvements in patient care.”