A NHS Commissioning Board target for all hospitals to have electronic patient record systems by 2014 has been watered down, the director overseeing the work has told HSJ.

The board’s director for patients and information Tim Kelsey has admitted the target, which was derived from its 2013-14 planning guidance, would be “literally physically impossible” for some trusts.

The planning guidance, called Everyone Counts and published in December, said: “We will expect secondary care providers to be able to account for the outcomes of all patients they treat and to adopt modern, safe standards of electronic record keeping by 2014-15.”

Mr Kelsey told HSJ in January that acute trusts which did not yet have EPR systems in place had just a year left to rectify this because the guidance “implied the existence of [an EPR]”.

However, he told HSJ this week: “What we are saying is that, ideally, we expect trusts to have done it by April 2014.

“But in the cases where they cannot, then the local area teams and others will negotiate what their plan is going to be and then we will hold them to account for that plan.

“By April 2014 hospitals need to have their plans in place and we are not going to give a very long time for hospitals to deploy it.”

The change followed Mr Kelsey warning trusts in January that they faced “very serious repercussions” if they do not have EPRs in place by 2014-15.

While the more nuanced target gives trusts more time, Mr Kelsey insisted the threat of serious repercussions by those perceived by the board to be lagging had not been lifted.

He said: “It depends. Say we have a hospital which is making no effort whatsoever, then yes, there could be serious repercussions. It’s a case of proportionate but meaningful action.

“Because we are not interested in breaking hospitals, we are interested in a safe healthcare system, we need to work with the provider community on what is realistic.

“The pace may be somewhat uncomfortable but it needs to be realistic.”

The commissioning board is set to consult providers, vendors and other stakeholders in the coming weeks on the specific data sets that will be required from hospitals, full details of which will be unveiled in June.