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NHS staff will soon be able to email patient scans and X-rays between departments and institutions. As part of the £6bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT), the NHS is rolling out a digital picture archiving and communications system (PACS). The goal is to cut waiting time between scans and diagnosis, helping medical staff treat patients more quickly.

The Department of Health has named the companies that will supply the technology: GE Medical Systems is the big winner, in partnership with Accenture, picking up three of the five regional deals. BT and Phillips, and Fujitsu and Kodak also picked up regional contracts. Richard Granger, director general of NHS IT, said his organisation had negotiated a "significant reduction" in the average price of a PACS system.

Health minister John Hutton said: "The digital image will follow the patient wherever they go and will be able to be recalled whenever and wherever they need to be accessed by a patient's healthcare professional."

This will mean lower costs for hospitals, as they will not have to buy film, and better service for patient, particularly in rural areas, he went on. PACS will be installed in local minor injuries units, as well as hospitals, so people will not have to travel to a hospital to get the diagnosis they need.

The PACS system will be rolled out through five local service providers, each responsible for a regional cluster. The Department of Health says national coverage will be completed in three years. ®

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