By Tony Collins
The BBC reports that there are “more problems than anticipated” with a patient-booking system at two Bristol hospitals run by North Bristol NHS Trust.
The trust describes the problems as “teething”. Consultants say the problems are “potentially dangerous”.
Last month North Bristol went live with the Cerner Millennium system under an NPfIT contract with BT. The Trust says problems are due to software being used incorrectly. They have led to some patients missing their operations and the wrong patients being booked for operations, says the BBC.
Emails from executives at Frenchay and Southmead hospitals, seen by the BBC, said staff should be “vigilant” to check lists were “completely accurate”.
BBC Points West’s health correspondent Matthew Hill said emails sent by consultants to hospital bosses claimed operation lists printed by the system were “complete fiction” and “potentially dangerous”.
One consultant told the BBC he had been put down to operate on patients from a completely different speciality.
The trust said there had been “teething problems” and that there had been “more problems than anticipated”.
In an email to staff the trust said the change of system had been “a very big change” so there was “no surprise” there had been difficulties.
A trust spokesman said there were a series of problems around outpatients and the associated clinics and some of the data moved from old systems had not migrated as planned.
“We need to ensure that we rebuild and recreate the clinics to match what people expect them to be on the ground,” he said.
“In theatres we have had some issues but have absolutely ensured from the outset that clinical safety has been at the top and have ensured any risks and issues have been mitigated.”
Conservative MP Richard Bacon, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, has established through a Parliamentary question that the cost of the North Bristol Cerner implementation is much higher than for a non-NPfIT installation in the same city.
Health Minister Simon Burns told Bacon that the costs of a Cerner Millennium deployment at the North Bristol NHS Trust were £15.2m for deployment and an annual service charge of £2m.
This brought the total cost of the Cerner system over seven years to about £29m, which was more than three times the £8.2m price of a similar deployment outside of the NPfIT at University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust.
Several Cerner implementations under the NPfIT have gone awry but the problems have eventually been resolved. The question is whether patient care and treatment is affected in the meantime. The lack of openness over problems with patient care in the NHS mean that the answer will probably never be known, which underlines the need for better regulation of hospital IT implementations.