NHS England has announced a new open source community interest company (CIC) to manage the roll-out of an electronic patient record system and to help spark further incorporation of digital health and care solutions across the service.

Three NHS Trust hospitals, Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, formally signed an agreement on 18 December 2014 to become the first members of the new group.

The three health organisations will act as initial custodians of the source code openMAXIMS EPR suite, which was released as open source in June last year. Companies House officially approved the CIC last Thursday.

The members will be able to guide and support other trusts looking to adopt the new software. IT director at Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Malcolm Senior, said that the initiative would allow a greater level of ownership and control than had been previously possible.

“In some respects we are going back to the days when NHS clinicians worked alongside NHS developers to enhance existing systems and products to maximise the clinical benefits available,” he said.

Andy Williams, a member of NHS England’s Open Source Programme team, said: “The CIC announcement marks the start of establishing a self-sustaining eco-system of communities which can develop, deliver and support open source digital services.

“This is the first milestone of many for the open source programme which continues to attract interest from the wider health and social care community.”
Director of informatics at St Helens and Knowsely Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Neil Darvill, believes that the openMAXIMS CIC announcement is an important step in the development of open source technology across the NHS.

“It is fair to say there have been limitations on the speed and flexibility of implementing some systems within healthcare, and we’re establishing the CIC so that best practice is shared and promoted. This means we can adapt and enhance the code, with input from colleagues across the NHS, to meet the current and future needs of the health service.”

Steve Bloor, deputy director of information at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said that the CIC would play a “pivotal role” in ensuring that health services are able to access a “’gold standard’ of code for the benefit of patient care.”

“This will be driven by a new open marketplace where existing and potential suppliers can provide development and support for the future of the openMAXIMS software,” he added.