A network that connects every NHS acute hospital in England is giving thousands of patients unprecedented and easy online access to everything from their x-rays through to ultrasound, CT and MRI scans.

The Image Exchange Portal (IEP) is relied on to share between 35 and 40 million images each week between NHS professionals in different trusts. Now, an extension to the network is spreading benefits directly to patients, allowing people throughout the country to quickly view their imaging through a secure log in on their mobile phone, tablet or computer. Patients are also starting to share their own images with clinicians. The move is helping to end a costly and outdated reliance on CDs for the NHS.

“This makes a real difference to our patients who need their imaging for all sorts of reasons,” said Annie Pinfold, a picture archiving and communication systems senior consultant at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. “We have helped hundreds of patients in the last few months alone, ranging from serving UK armed forces personnel deployed in different parts of the world, through to a patient travelling overseas for advanced chemotherapy treatment, and many more patients who need images quickly to go on holiday, to support claims, to get second opinions or specialist treatment, or simply because they want to see it.

The trust has seen a surge in imaging requests from patients since the high profile General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into place. Having access to the system is helping to manage this growing demand, with two thirds of patients who do ask for their imaging from the trust now specifically requesting the new format, rather than CDs.

“It is so much faster and easier for patients to receive and share images,” said Pinfold. “Many devices no longer have CD drives, and IEP with Anyone allows us to send images much more quickly through a secure electronic transfer trusted in the NHS, compared to the five days, or even longer, that it can take to post two encrypted CDs and a password in separate jiffy bags.”

Similarly to other hospitals using the network, the trust has been saving time and money. It is estimated that each CD request from patients consumes up to 20 minutes of staff time, and nearly £9 in production and postage costs. This is compared to five minutes and only pence with the new system.