The first London rollout of the new version of a key care records system, which went live in June at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, has caused “chaos” according to a local newspaper report.
Hospital staff told the Camden New Journal that they were having to use paper because the Cerner Millennium system was not working, weeks after the launch, and it was also difficult to make appointments.
“The whole system has basically crashed. It has been 10 days of chaos,” one worker told the paper. “We have IT running around like headless chickens,” added another.
The LC1 system is London's first version of Cerner Millennium, one of two key records systems being rolled out in the UK. It links directly into the NHS spine, which is the central database for digital records of patients.
There has been controversy over the central storage of patient records on the spine, as well as over the assumed consent of patients to be part of the system if they do not opt out. The NHS is currently reconsidering the consent model to give patients more choice over who sees their records.
The Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust, which runs the 900-bed hospital, insisted the reports of major problems were exaggerated and said it was “certainly not correct” to call the situation chaotic.
“A new system of this size and complexity inevitably meant a few teething problems and that staff had to get used to new ways of working and new processes,” the trust said in a statement. “The implementation of the system involved training 4,000 staff and months of preparation.”
It said the system was starting to return to normal and was delivering benefits, adding that “for the first time clinicians can see in one place patient notes, diagnosis, tests and follow ups”.
The London Programme for IT, responsible for the regional rollout of the £12.7 billion NHS National Programme for IT, said it had “put steps in place” to solve the problem. BT referred queries back to the NHS.
The news adds to another troubled Cerner Millennium rollout, at the Milton Keynes Hospital, where it is understood that version of the system displayed incorrect information when it went live last month, and that staff reported major concerns over training. A spokesperson for the hospital admitted there had been “some issues” but said the system was now working.
Meanwhile, the Royal United Hospital NHS Trust in Bath confirmed it had stopped its own rollout of Cerner Millennium software. A spokesperson said the trust had felt it was “not able to receive” the work contracted to it after supplier Fujitsu quit the national programme in May. It said it is now in discussions with the remaining suppliers and is "firmly committed" to the programme.
In June the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust threatened to quit the programme, after what it said was the “worrying” development of the end of Fujitsu’s contract.
The remaining key NPfIT contractors, CSC and BT, are now competing for much of the work left by Fujitsu, which was responsible for system delivery in the south and south-east of the country.
It is understood from sources close to the programme that those two main providers may be awarded much of the work by trusts, but that trusts will also pull from the extensive list of additional suppliers in order to supplement delivery when resources are stretched.