NHS hospital says patient system 'is working' despite problems

Problems with the newly installed Cerner patient administration system (PAS) at Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals trust have led to patients being sent the wrong appointment letters.

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Problems with the newly installed Cerner patient administration system (PAS) at Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals trust have led to patients being sent the wrong appointment letters.

But the trust’s IT director said problems were being resolved by a post-implementation team and the benefits of the new system outweighed the initial difficulties.

Barnet and Chase Farm is the first hospital trust in London to have implemented the Cerner Millennium PAS system provided by BT under the NHS’s £12.4bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT). The software is also being rolled out across NHS trusts in the South of England, where Fujitsu is the lead NPfIT contractor.

Barnet and Chase Farm’s new PAS – the R0 version of the Millennium software - went live from 21 July.

But patients’ representatives say problems with the system have led to misdirected hospital appointment letters. Alex Nunes, chair of the independent patient forum for the trust, said: “It’s been sending out appointments letters to people who haven’t got appointments and for people who should have appointments it hasn’t.”

The problems had been “quite extensive – enough to be a matter of concern for us as it is for the trust”, he said. “I know someone personally who received a letter suggesting they come into hospital for surgery. It really shook them, because they weren’t expecting one.”

Misdirected letters could result in people “not getting the treatment they actually need”, Nunes added.

The problems at Barnet follow protests in April by 79 doctors and other users of the Millennium software at Milton Keynes General Hospital. They wrote to managers warning that the system was “not fit for purpose” and should not be installed elsewhere.

But Remon Gazal, IT director at Barnet and Chase Farm, said the problems – which he said were at a “low level” – were “nothing to do with the product”, putting difficulties down to the scale of change required.

The trust has had to migrate 500,000 records from two legacy systems – McKesson’s TotalCare and IRC PAS – and train more than 1,200 clinical and admin staff to use the new system.

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