Three NHS trusts sign up to open source community interest company ‘custodianship’
The NHS’s open source movement has reached a major milestone with the official launch of the openMAXIMS community interest company (CIC).
This will guide the development of an open source electronic patient record system for the NHS.
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 initial members of the new organisation and have now received approved establishment from Companies House.
Malcolm Senior, IT director at Taunton, said the CIC will give like-minded organisations and clinicians more say in the development of the electronic patient record, and encourage greater collaboration.
“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.
Senior sees the CIC as a significant opportunity for trusts to develop new functionality that can be shared across other NHS organisations.
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
“It’s providing a greater level of ownership and control than we have been able to achieve previously,” he said.
The CIC will act as a custodian for the source code of the openMAXIMS product, which was released by IMS MAXIMS in June last year. The custodians will be able to help other trusts looking to use the software by providing the same level of assurances as with a proprietary vendor. Trusts will be able to adapt the software for their own use and share with other members of the CIC.
Neil Darvill, director of informatics at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said openMAXIMS CIC marked an important step in the development of open source technology in the NHS.
He added: “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.”
The CIC will be chaired by Jo Cubbon, chief executive at Taunton and will meet for the first time in the coming weeks. Each trust will be able to appoint one director to the board, with a ‘one member-one vote’ system to ensure each member has an equal responsibility. Clinicians, patient representatives, academics, and developers interested in contributing to the software’s continuing development are able to join the CIC at the discretion of current members.
Steve Bloor, deputy director of information at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, noted the importance of creating a custodian of the openMAXIMS code. He said: “The CIC will play a pivotal role in ensuring that the NHS is 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.”
NHS England has said it has plans for a number of CICs to act as custodians for open source products. This, it believes, will ignite a market for collaborative, high-quality open source digital health and care services which will more closely meet the needs of clinicians and other end users.
This is further evidence of how healthcare providers and software suppliers can collaborate more closely, using open technology to make significant steps in delivering safe and integrated care
Andy Williams, part 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.”
Shane Tickell, chief executive of IMS MAXIMS said there has been a key shift in the way the NHS and the supplier community are working together.
“This is further evidence of how healthcare providers and software suppliers can collaborate more closely, using open technology to make significant steps in delivering safe and integrated care. I hope that by sharing and promoting best practice among clinicians, developers and patient advocates, we will see faster development of code to enable improvements in patient care.”