Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust has bought a vendor neutral archive from SynApps Solutions, on a five-year contract.

The VNA, procured through NHS Supply Chain, will initially be used to store images transferred from the Accenture central data store.

Under the National Programme for IT, Accenture supplied the trust with a picture archiving and communications system from Agfa. The trust is in the process of repatriating the images from the CDS.

Christina Malcolmson, Northampton's deputy director of IT, said that the end of the NPfIT contract was the trigger for purchasing a VNA.

“I'd been keeping an eye on what was going on with other hospitals, and some were having a bit of an issue with the complexities of data repatriation. A VNA seemed like a good way to do it – to bring the data back home first to do the data cleansing and then move onto our new PACS supplier,” she explained.

The move will happen next January when the trust, which is part of the EMRAD consortium of trusts in the East Midlands, will switch from the Agfa PACS to one supplied by GE Healthcare.

The trust plans to use the VNA as the basis of its electronic patient record system.

“This to me seems like a very good way of getting the EPR functionality,” said Malcolmson.

“We've gone for the XDS registry as well so that we can do sharing with other care settings more easily on the zero footprint viewer.”

Once the PACS images have been transferred from the CDS to the VNA, the trust will look at bringing in images from other disciplines, including cardiology, endoscopy, ophthalmology and histopathology.

Scanned medical records are already held in a separate Documentum repository, which Malcolmson said could be opened up to include referral letters. The Telelogic portal that enables clinicians to view the medical records could also be used to view the VNA images.

“That will give clinicians the feeling that they're in one system, and have a patient-centred view of the clinical data from the timeline,” said Malcolmson.

Northampton has issued tablets to some clinicians and there are plans to install a zero footprint viewer, enabling consultants to view images in the VNA that they could share with patients at the bedside.

The trust is also putting in a virtual desktop infrastructure that will allow clinicians access to older legacy systems from the tablet.

“I'd like to see all consultants with their own tablets so they can do their own voice recognition and connect to their clinical systems,” said Malcolmson.

At a later stage, she hopes to extend the use of the VNA to give patients access to their images through a patient portal.