England’s two biggest general practice software suppliers have struck a long awaited agreement to share patient record data between their systems.

EMIS and TPP announced the deal yesterday, with both parties indicating they are confident the agreement will be successful, after a similar agreement was aborted in March 2013. The rivals between them account for the majority of UK patient primary care records.

The move is the latest example of commercial IT vendors accepting they must allow the sharing of patient data with competitors if they want to continue to play a significant role in the provision of NHS services.

It follows IT provider IMS MAXIMS releasing an open source version of its software, which acute trusts can use and alter the code to tailor the system to their needs.

The companies said the “development has improved patient care – not commercial benefit – at its heart”. It will help better integrate care between existing providers and also help with the development of new models of care provided by GP networks or multidisciplinary providers, as set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View, the companies said.

Many health economies operate solely on the TPP SystmOne or EMIS Web core clinical systems, but EMIS chief executive Chris Spencer told HSJ that “around 30 per cent” of areas in England have a mixture of practices using either EMIS or TPP.

As well as helping share patient data between practices, the move will also help share records with “community nurses, nursing homes, community pharmacists and some hospital services, such as accident and emergency”, Mr Spencer said.

He added: “This involves the two dominant players in the market, so it’s an important plank in the primary care space. We will [share data] with anyone providing they adhere to proper coding and information governance standards.”

A joint statement by the companies said: “The EMIS-TPP solution will be provided at no cost to customers and will be supported by existing robust and proven security models. The companies also hope to deliver functionality to support cross-organisational working such as shared tasks and shared appointment booking.”

The first attempt at a deal fell apart in 2013 because EMIS wanted data to be shared through the “medical interoperability gateway” product developed by Healthcare Gateway, a company partly owned by EMIS. TPP wanted it to be done independently.

Mr Spencer said the new agreement was independent of the medical interoperability gateway.

The agreement follows NHS England announcing that 14 of the 29 “vanguard” areas trialling new models of care outlined in the forward view would be multispecialty community providers, or MCPs.

MCPs will involve GP practices forming federations, networks or single organisations to provide a wide range of services such as overseeing community nursing, therapists and other community based professionals.

These areas, which include the Fylde coast, Calderdale and Erewash, will need to be able to share patient records effectively in order to integrate care successfully.