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NHS completes London roll out of Pacs

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Digital x-ray archiving is live across London's hospitals and will cover the rest of England by next year.

The Department of Health has announced that the digital Picture Archiving and Communications System (Pacs), a key part of the NHS National Programme for IT, has gone live in every hospital trust in London and will be available across England by 2008.

Richard Granger, director general of the NHS IT programme, said on 21 May 2007: "The achievement with digital imaging here in London is an important part of the bigger picture in which hundreds of new systems have already been installed, benefiting tens of thousands of clinicians and millions of patients."

Pacs replaces the method of capturing x-ray and scans on film and paper by enabling clinical images to be stored electronically and viewed on screen. Healthcare professionals can look at any number of images at computer terminals across NHS trusts.

According to the Department of Health, this will mean faster diagnoses for patients and a saving in excess of £6.2m in the first year of service - approximately £250,000 per year for each London trust.

Health secretary Patricia Hewitt visited North London's Royal Free Hospital yesterday to see Pacs, a digital filmless x-ray system, in action.

"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," Hewitt said.

"Hospitals will no longer have to pay for film, doctors will be able to diagnose treatment quicker and patients will receive a faster, better service."

Contracts for Pacs services were awarded in 2005 to Phillips, iSoft, GE, HSS and Afga by the national programme main suppliers. In the same year, Hillingdon became the first English hospital trust to go digital.

Ninety-two trusts and more than 250 hospitals across the country have now installed digital x-ray technology, as part of the National Programme for IT.

The progress of Pacs provides a boost for the controversial National IT Programme. Last month a long-awaited report from Parliament's influential Committee of Public Accounts said that the success of the programme is precarious, with key projects running late and suppliers struggling to deliver.

The committee's chair Edward Leigh said a question mark hung over the most "expensive health information technology project in history". But health minister Lord Hunt said that the projects such as Pacs and electronic prescriptions were already being used by clinicians and benefiting patients.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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