By Tony Collins
When Croydon Health Services NHS Trust went live with Cerner Millennium in October 2013 a spokesman told eHealth Insider:
“The new system will give everyone working at the trust better access to information and an accurate picture of what all of our services are doing. This will allow staff to make quicker, more informed decisions about the care patients need. It will improve the quality, safety and efficiency of care.”
The go-live has indeed brought some benefits. The trust says these include more efficient management of medicines, more detailed patient information being conveyed between shifts and departments, and better management of beds.
But earlier this week Campaign4Change reported on some of the problems associated with the go-live including 50,000 patients on the trust’s waiting list and a “serious incident” declared over diagnostic waits including extended waits for patients with suspected cancer.
Said the trust’s Audit Committee in March 2014 – 6 months after the go-live of the Cerner Millennium Care Records Service [CRS] :
“CRS Millennium Lessons Learned
“KB [COO and Deputy Chief Executive] outlined the context in which the implementation of CRS had taken place from the time the Business case had been approved in 2010 to the commencement of deployment in January 2011 and its subsequent implementation to date.
“She noted the 7 official “go live” dates which were reflected in the lessons learned report many of which fell during a period of organisational change.
“She noted that the deployment in CHS [Croydon Health Services NHS Trust] had been the most comprehensive deployment to take place nationally.
“It was noted that Programme Team had considered the lessons learned from other [NPfIT] Care Records Service deployments as part of the implementation programme at CHS and that there was no evidence of harm to patients despite the challenges around delivery of service.
” However significant operational challenges were experienced and a deep dive into the implementation of CRS was carried out and the findings submitted to the Finance & Performance Committee and the Trust Development Authority.
“In relation to ‘no harm to patients’ SC [Chairman] asked what empirical evidence there was to support the findings of the Deep Dive.
“KB explained from October 2013 to date there were 50,000 patients on the waiting list, but a patient validation exercise had taken place which had confirmed that no patients had come to any harm.
“The potential backlog would be cleared by the end of March but in the meantime those patients on waiting lists would be subject to a further clinical review to ensure that there was no harm.”
In fact the trust is still working through the backlogs; and long waiting times are not the only matters arising from the Cerner Millennium implementation. A medication safety report for the month of March 2004 highlights these lessons:
“The patient was prescribed Furosemide for acute pulmonary oedema on 12/03/2014. The drug was not administered and the reason not documented. On review of the incident, it was identified that there was a mis-communication between both nurses and the fact that they have started using a new computer system had caused confusion which led to the error. Once error identified the dose was given and ward sister has ensured that staff will go for further training if unsure on how to use the CRS Millennium system…
“Third incident was a failure to administer fluids (Normal Saline) in an acute kidney injury patient with an admission creatinine of greater than 700. Again there was confusion with the electronic prescribing system and the nurse thought that patient did not have a drug chart as the electronic prescribing system had gone live whereas in fact there was a paper drug chart for the fluid. The position of the venflon on the patient arm also contributed to the delay. Once error identified the fluids were given but were not running to time and patient improved. Ward sister has ensured that staff will go for further training if unsure on how to use the CRS Millennium system and staff were also briefed about poor documentation of the incident…
“Fourth incident occurred involved a patient prescribed ACS protocol for NSTEMI, Positive trop T. The aspirin 300mg, clopidogrel 300mg and fondaparinux 2.5mg were not administered and not signed for. Omission of medicines was discussed with doctor looking after the patient and the patient did not come to any harm. Omission occurred as agency staff did not know how to use CRS Millennium. On review of incident all staff were briefed on importance of patients being administered medicines on time and in particular a discussion took place between agency staff and for agency staff to have adequate CRS Millennium training. There are champion users nurses on wards who are able to train Agency staff.
Cerner Millennium is provided to the trust under a national contract hosted by the Department of Health and managed via a Local Service Provider (LSP) contract with BT. The contract covers trusts in London and the south of England.
The DH contract expires on 31st October 2015 after which point the DH will no longer fund any of the services currently hosted by them. This includes both the software and licencing costs for Cerner Millennium as well as the BT data storage facilities and other costs.
The DH requires all trusts with Cerner under the NPfIT to commit to an exit strategy before 31st October 2015.
Is Cerner Millennium merely an administrative system as officials at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust claim it is? The implication is, with an administrative system, that it cannot be involved in any harm to patients. Officials at Connecting for Health when they ran the NPfIT used to describe Cerner Millennium as an administrative system.
It is the deployment of this “admin” system at Croydon that is implicated in medication errors, a waiting list of 50,000 people, and long waits for diagnostic tests for people with suspected cancer.
If Whitehall and NHS officials cannot see the system as other than administrative, this is a mistake that may help to explain why a poor service for patients, which sometimes has serious potential clinical implications, is so commonplace, even months after go-live.