The CCIO Network, the national best practice community of NHS clinical informatics leaders, has updated its 2015 Newcastle Declaration on interoperability in response to feedback from the health and social care specialist group of the trade body techUK.

The Newcastle Declaration, drafted by CCIOs at the 2015 CCIO Summer School, calls for a radical step change on interoperability (information sharing between different electronic systems) to achieve truly joined up health and social care.

To achieve this the declaration sets out five general interoperability principles plus five technical interoperability principles. The declaration provides a clear statement of end-user needs, and has had a major impact on policy in the year since it was published.

The revised version amends the third technical principle, removing the call for suppliers to not charge license fees for developing and maintaining interfaces.

Suppliers – who otherwise warmly welcomed the declaration – said they could not guarantee to develop and maintain free interfaces without potentially undermining their ability to continue in business.

The revisions remove any remaining areas of disagreement between the Newcastle Declaration and the techUK Interoperability Charter, a pledge to support interoperability that has the support of more than 100 suppliers.

The groundswell on interoperability has also taken in the establishment of the Code4Health Interoperability Community and the launch of the INTEROPen industry initiative.

The critical importance of interoperability was spelled out in Dr Robert Wachter’s recent review of NHS IT, which drew lessons from recent US experience of digitising health. It stressed the need to ‘bake in’ interoperability from the outset at level.

Dr Joe McDonald, chair of the CCIO Network said interoperability is critical to the safety of patient care. The opening paragraphs of the Newcastle Declaration sum up what is needed:

“We declare that, in order to provide safe and effective health and care for all citizens, health and care professionals require unimpeded access to all relevant information available on those they care for.

“Too often, health and care professionals today lack key information available on those they care for, and have to make treatment decisions without access to all of the currently available knowledge, such as previous care and test results. Citizens and patients deserve better.”

Paul Cooper of techUK’s health and social care council said: “The Newcastle Declaration provides the clinicians’ asks on interoperability; the techUK Interoperability Charter makes pledges by suppliers; Code4Health and INTEROPen will provide the means to deliver.”

The advisory panel of the Health CIO Network, the companion to the CCIO Network, has now also formally endorsed the updated Newcastle Declaration.

Adrian Byrne, chair of the network, concluded: “The Health CIO Network is fully behind the updated Newcastle Declaration, a powerful piece of work begun by our CCIO colleagues.

“What we as CIOs now need to do is to concentrate on developing standard contract clauses that we include in all new contracts that commit suppliers to meet the interoperability principles of both the Newcastle Declaration and techUK charter.”