Rotherham Council and its local primary care trust are consolidating their systems on a single network three years after first deciding to share information.
The metropolitan borough council and the health trust decided that moving to a single network was the logical next step, after giving key employees access to patient and client information held on their respective systems.
Named employees at both the health trust and the council's Children and Young People's Service use smart tokens to access patient and client data. The tokens generate passwords which change every eight seconds to improve the system's security.
Work started on an application that could access both agencies' systems in 2003 after the primary care trust won approval from the NHS Information Authority to share patient information.
Senior council and trust managers had talked about information sharing since 1996. The talks initially came to nothing because both sets of managers thought that the NHS Information Authority would block any attempt to share patient data with a non-NHS agency.
The information-sharing application was developed by RBT, a joint venture company between the council and BT, which runs the council's IT. The trust wrote the business case for the application with input from the council and RBT.
Andrew Clayton, the trust's assistant IT director, said, "We came up with an application to run over a virtual private network. There were one or two hitches along the way, but it is now up and running and working effectively."
The application was first used by the accident and emergency department of Rotherham District General Hospital. It replaced a paper-based child protection register that was not being kept properly up to date.
Sue Wilson, the performance, information and quality manager for Rotherham's Children and Young People's Service, said, "There were some setbacks along the way - mainly to do with security - and some people did raise eyebrows on both sides about information from one organisation being available to another. But the practitioners were enthusiastic about it because they could see the benefits."
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