A new electronic patient record (EPR) has gone live at South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland, the first step in digitising health and care records in the country for more efficient care.

The deployment of the encompass EPR, from Epic, has – according to the Department of Health – been a “culmination of over seven years of work”.

With South Eastern HSCT the first trust in Northern Ireland’s go-live, the remaining trusts are set to follow on a phased basis throughout 2024-2025. The Belfast Trust is next for the encompass go-live, and will then be followed by the Northern, Western and Southern trusts. The 10-year deal was signed back in 2020 and is worth £275m.

The encompass programme sets out to deliver the digitally enabled transformation of Health and Social Care (HSC) in Northern Ireland. It aims to have a digital health and care record for every Northern Ireland citizen.

It will allow both clinicians and patients to see and update their health information online. In addition, staff will be empowered to order tests, manage care and prescribe medications all from a single system. As well as reducing the amount of paper being used within the trusts, the EPR will also mean staff can work more efficiently, and it will contribute to patient safety by ensuring all of the patient information is stored in one place.

A new patient portal, called My Care, will be rolled out gradually on a trust-by-trust basis – allowing the general public to take ownership of their health journey and make and amend health appointments.

Although GPs aren’t included in the encompass programme, they will have access to the EPR via EpicCare Link – an online, read-only view of the electronic health record.

Roisin Coulter, chief executive of the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, said: “I am so proud of our staff, other staff from across the health service and the entire team involved in this programme who have been working tirelessly together in order to implement this digital innovation.

“It will of course be a time of change and adjustment for our staff as they get used to the system… (but) the long-term benefits for our patients and service users, who are at the heart of everything we do, are enormous.”

The Department of Health’s permanent secretary, Peter May, added: “The launch of encompass signals a new era for health and social care services and is part of the Department’s transformation strategy. It is much more than updating to a new system, it means that for the first time ever all patient information will be held in one place. Patients will not need to repeat their information to staff at every appointment, creating a better experience for patients and service users.”

He continued: “For staff, encompass will simplify things; allowing them to get the right information at the right time and providing better quality data for improvement of our services in the future. Staff will have secure, comprehensive access on modern devices, reducing duplication of services like tests and reducing the risk of errors.”