By Tony Collins
North Bristol NHS Trust has issued an apology on its website after problems with the implementation of a Cerner Millennium patient record system under the National Programme for IT.
Some Bristol consultants had regarded the software as installed at the Trust as “potentially dangerous”.
The Trust went live on 9 December 2011 with a Cerner patient administration system at Frenchay Hospital and Southmead Hospital that replaced two systems. But the Trust has had to revert to paper in some areas.
On its website the Trust says that its “65 wards and maternity department are all using the new system successfully”.
It accepts that it has “experienced significant problems” in outpatient clinics. It says “These problems have been caused by the incorrect set up of clinic lists, which meant staff could not access the system and errors in the data migration of existing appointments.
“As a result, some patients may have received the wrong appointment dates, no confirmation of appointment or letters being sent out in error. Again, processes are in place to minimise further disruption to out-patient appointments and ensure patient safety.”
TheTrust says it has engineers and technicians re-building the clinics’ system or they are “in clinics correcting problems as they happen, providing solutions and resolving issues”.
The intention is that 90% of areas will be using Cerner by the end of today [31 January]. “Our aim is that by early February all outpatient clinics will be using Cerner. All other outpatient appointments are being managed via other systems and paper processes.”
The Trust says it is contacting patients by phone or letter to advise them of their current appointment slot. “We have ensured that any urgent referrals including cancer two week waits have been prioritised to ensure they are unaffected.”
It adds “During the process of correcting the issues with outpatient clinics and to support GPs and their patients we have written to them to advise them that all patients who have been referred to us either through Choose & Book, fax or Fast Track are within our appointments system.
“We have advised GPs of a dedicated telephone number, fax number and email address for GPs or their patients to contact for further advice. To provide further reassurance to patients and GPs we will keep the helpline service running until the end of February.”
The Trust says on its website:
“We apologise and would like to thank the public for their patience and our staff for their hard work and dedication in ensuring that patient safety is not compromised.
“These issues have caused disruption and frustration for our patients and our staff and we recognise that this has not delivered the level of service that we expect, and the public expect, from us.
“It has also placed extra workload on our staff, who nevertheless, remain dedicated to ensuring the best possible patient care during this period, and managing the issues that the Trust faces.
“Our Information Management & Technology Team, supported by our suppliers BT and Cerner, have been working very hard to sort out these initial issues and we are already seeing improvements.
“We remain confident that once the new system is fully implemented, it will significantly improve services for our patients and better equip us to meet future challenges.”
Meanwhile the Bristol Evening Post reports that the Chief Executive of the hospital trust, Ruth Brunt, has called for an independent inquiry into the issues surrounding the implementation of the Cerner system.
She said people who have turned up to appointments and operations that have been cancelled or were not on the system would be compensated. A hotline has also been set up so that people can check whether their appointments are in the system.
The Bristol Evening Post also reported that reception staff had walked out due to the pressure of dealing with patients who were unhappy to find their appointments not on the new system.
“It is horrendous – what used to take us five or six clicks is currently taking 24 and we cannot access the details,” a staff member said. “The notes have not been available when people turn up.
“We have all worked hard and I am sure if it was anywhere else we would have gone on strike. The people on the ground are struggling. It is really demoralising because we are doing our best. Girls on reception are dealing with queues of people and there has been an occasion where a receptionist has walked out because they were so stressed.
“When patients call up we want to be able to help them, but at the moment we don’t know where to look.”
The employee did not believe the trust’s claims that everything would be sorted out by 13 February.