Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust is set to spend money allocated as part of the government’s ’40 new hospitals’ programme on buying a new electronic patient record.

The acute and community trust was one of 40 hospitals allocated funding under the government’s £3.7bn plan to build 40 new hospitals by 2030.

But recent board papers reveal it has opted to fast-track its electronic patient record (EPR) ahead of building infrastructure.

The paper references the trusts emergency department, which currently has 25 separate systems in operation, highlighting the need for an EPR to achieve “efficiency”.

The EPR would “lay the foundation for health care to be delivered across acute, community and mental health sites. It would ensure the most up to date patient record was available at all times and therefore patients would be treated safely, at the right time and in the right place”, minutes from the board meeting stated.

The funding allocated to the trust under the government’s new hospital programme was for a rebuild of Torbay Hospital, a new smaller acute hospital, an elective centre and a collaborative North East South elective centre.

All infrastructure would be “underpinned by an EPR system and technology enabled care”, according to a government statement on Torbay and South Devon’s programme.

The trust’s lead on the government’s health infrastructure plan, now known as the new hospital programme, said he was there was “confidence” capital affordability for the EPR could be supported by the programme.

A spokesperson for the trust said its current digital services “does not support our people or our services adequately”.

“We have an opportunity to progress our digital transformation which will have a real demonstrable benefit on improving care delivery and benefiting our people’s working lives,” they said.

“We recognise that the estates development will, by its very nature, take longer to deliver. Through implementation of an EPR first, we will be able to achieve transformation of pathways for the benefit of patients in advance of the physical infrastructure developments.

“This will also reduce the impact on our people of two significant change programmes being delivered at the same time.”

They added that “additional digital capability” will support staff and services better through redevelopment works. The EPR is expected to be ready to roll out into new estates when they are built.

A decision on which supplier will provide the EPR is yet to be made, they confirmed.

Neighbouring trust Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust went live with a £42m EPR from Epic in October 2020.

The health infrastructure plan was first launched in September 2019, promising a £2.8bn investment for six new hospitals to be built. Further funding of £3.7bn was announced in September 2020 for 40 new hospitals to be built.