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Advanced digital imaging archive to improve patient outcomes

10th November 2022

Dr Cathy Jack – Chief Executive Belfast Trust and NIPACS+ Senior Responsible Owner (SRO), Karen Bailey – Chief Executive of Business Services Organisation (BSO), Peter May – Permanent Secretary Department of Health, Joanne Allison – Interim NIPACS+ Programme Manager and Laura Molloy - Senior Project Manager with NIPACS+.

This week, Belfast Trust Chief Executive Dr Cathy Jack welcomed Karen Bailey, Chief Executive of Business Services Organisation and Permanent Secretary of the Department of Heath Peter May to the Royal Victoria Hospital’s Imaging Centre to celebrate the success of the NIPACS+ programme.

The regional digital archiving system to allow clinicians from across Northern Ireland to view patient images instantly, from a wide range of medical specialities, in any hospital.

NIPACS+ (Northern Ireland Picture Archiving and Communications System+) will benefit patients by supporting approximately two million examinations per year.

It builds on over a decade of work in the original Digital Archiving programme ‘NIPACS’, that has allowed the HSC to digitise and connect its radiology and pathology services, and represents an estimated capital investment of £50million.

The new software system will enhance the care of patients, by moving to one imaging system that will allow a single point of access for healthcare professionals across the HSC system to view images they need to support patient care from any hospital within Northern Ireland.

Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health Peter May said: “I am extremely pleased to support the formal announcement of the NIPACS+ Programme.  This software will enable our HSC healthcare professionals to access and interact with patient images from a wide range of disciplines, including radiology, cardiology, and oncology. The fact that images from any hospital within Northern Ireland will be available throughout the region for secondary consultations will provide massive opportunities to provide enhanced patient care.”

NIPACS+ will enable every HSC trust across Northern Ireland to break down silos of imaging information, enhancing care and support timely diagnoses for patients throughout the region.

Dr Cathy Jack, Chief Executive of Belfast Trust, said: “This programme signals a major step forward in medical diagnostics for Northern Ireland. Moving to one imaging system will mean that from a single point of access healthcare professionals can instantly see all the imaging they need to support patient care.”

Patients being transferred to different hospitals will also benefit from staff having immediate access to imaging captured at other sites. For example, if they are transferred to a major trauma centre or neurology unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital, the system will enable medical professionals to easily review images before patients arrive, in some cases informing decisions on where best to treat a patient.

Karen Bailey, Chief Executive of Business Services Organisation, said: “I am so proud of the NIPACS+ team and cannot praise them enough. Despite the challenges we have faced as a result of COVID-19, the team have worked diligently behind the scenes to develop a programme that will help to save lives, and further futureproof health care services across Northern Ireland.”

The NIPACS+ programme directly responds to a large number of recommendations in the Northern Ireland Department of Health Strategic Framework for Imaging Services (2018), that set out to transform how imaging services are planned and provided. It called for NIPACS to be expanded into new clinical areas, and for a single radiology information system and picture archiving communication system to be available across all acute sites, integrated with Northern Ireland’s care record systems.