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NHS rolls out Vendor Neutral Archive initiative to open source records

The Inquirer - NHS England has been talking about the latest strand of its move toward open digital solutions to provide interoperability between the myriad departmental systems that are proprietary, incompatible or just plain disparate.

The organisation is to adopt Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) as a standard format to store everything from X-rays to scanned letters and patient notes, in order to avoid lock-in with proprietary systems and allow easy sharing of data across the NHS.

VNA is not a format in its own right, but rather a standard of the Picture Archiving and Communication System. This is tailored to meet the needs of the medical community and based on common standards which are yet to be defined but revolve around incompatibility.

Rachel Dunscombe, chief information officer at Bolton NHS Foundation, has been leading the charge for VNA adoption.

She told The INQUIRER: "We've got 300 different IT systems in place and we're just one of around 100 hospital trusts, and then you've got GPs, mental health, clinics and so on, so we're just a fraction of it as a starting baseline."

Peter Coates, NHS England open-source programme head, added: "There's an enormous baseline to work with here and those systems range from large US-based megasuites which cost tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars, way down to departmental systems, and down to Excel spreadsheets."

The possibilities generated by using open source or at least open standards are huge.