The vast majority of acute trusts face substantial bills to comply with new data requirements which are expected to be introduced, experts have warned.

NHS England today launches a consultation into which new areas hospitals should be mandated to collect data on.

The consultation, the latest phase of NHS England’s care.data project, is designed to develop a far richer secondary care dataset than is available to commissioners from the existing hospital episodes statistics.

Measures likely to be mandated include systems which help gather information on what investigation, such as blood tests and x-rays, patients underwent during their hospital stay and e-prescribing technology.

These requirements will help development of the new dataset, the care episodes statistics, which will eventually replace the HES data set, in a gradual process over several years.

NHS England’s chief data officer Geraint Lewis told HSJ that increasing trusts’ digital capacity would benefit patient safety. One example of this was e-prescribing reducing the number of prescribing errors. 

Mr Lewis warned the vast majority of acute trusts would face a significant challenge to comply with new data requirement with only a “handful of trusts” likely to meet the new requirements from April 2014.

He said: “The vast majority of trusts are going to have to raise their game. They must either be able to supply the data to by April 2014 or they must have a plan of how they are going to achieve the new standards which commissioners are happy with.”

He added NHS England can mandate trusts to collect the data under section 254 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012.   

Ewan Davis, a health informatics expert and government adviser, said the challenge and costs associated to the project were substantial.  

He said: “It’s a significant challenge and could cost the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds. For trusts which are not very digitally mature it could cost tens of millions of pounds.

“It could take these trusts 18 to 24 months from the point of having procured a system to having it running at significant scale.”

The consultation runs for eight weeks and the final guidance is expected to be published in the autumn.