UK hospitals adjust IT plans after system problems

A Sussex hospital has scrapped a Cerner Millennium patient records system that cost £2 million to implement, while a London hospital seeks £500,000 after roll out delays.

Worthing and Southlands Hospitals NHS Trust is abandoning the Cerner Millennium programme, a patient administration system being rolled out across South East and London hospitals as part of the £12.7 billion (A$28.3 billion) National Programme for IT (NPfIT) to modernise NHS IT systems.

The Trust said it had scrapped the system in favour of a system it used previously, called Helix. The decision to migrate to the rival application was due to its planned merger with the Royal West Sussex NHS Trust, which also currently uses Helix.

The Argus reported that Worthing has had a number of problems with Cerner since it was installed in September 2007. Employees complained it was difficult to manage and wasn't properly recording all the work being done, including accident and emergency procedures.

Staff were also reportedly having problems locating or tracking patient notes through the system, and could not print and annotate patient lists or labels for specimens being sent for tests.

In its annual report, Worthing and Southlands Trust said the Cerner implementation "proved to be a very demanding challenge requiring the allocation of significant staff resources to ensure the system is effective and providing the correct level of information and is not adversely impacting on the level of service provided to our patients".

A spokesperson for Worthing and Southlands trust said: "It is more sensible to transfer Worthing and Southlands to a familiar system still being used at the Royal West Sussex than to move them to an entirely new platform on a temporary basis."

"Continuing with separate systems until the proposed deployment of the new National Programme [for IT] system was not considered a viable option as the timetable for this has not yet been finalised. Running parallel systems would also be more time consuming and less efficient than switching to a common one, which would offer a better service to patients and enable the new organisation to monitor its performance more accurately."

Meanwhile, Kingston Hospital, the next London hospital in line to install the Cerner system, has had its start date postponed for a second time, after problems at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, one of the first to install the system.

Kingston Hospital was to begin using the system last October, but the start date had been put back until this April. However, it emerged today that the April date has also been postponed indefinitely until issues in live Trusts were fully resolved.

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