Tag Archives: BT

Trust spends £16.6m on consultants for Cerner EPR

By Tony Collins

Reading-based Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust says in an FOI response that its spending on “computer consultants since the inception of the EPR system is £16.6m”.

The Trust’s total spend on the Cerner Millennium system was said to have been £30m by October 2012.

NHS IT suppliers have told me that the typical cost of a Trust-wide EPR [electronic patient record] system, including support for five years, is about £6m-£8m, which suggests that the Royal Berkshire has spent £22m more than necessary on new patient record IT.

Jonathan Isaby, Taxpayers’ Alliance political director, said: “This is an astonishing amount of taxpayers’ money to have squandered on a system which is evidently failing to deliver results.

“Every pound lost to this project is a pound less available for frontline medical care. Those who were responsible for the failure must be held to account for their actions as this kind of waste cannot go unchecked.”

 The £16.6m consultancy figure was uncovered this week through a Freedom of Information request made by The Reading Chronicle. It had asked for the spend on consultants working on the Cerner Millennium EPR [which went live later than expected in June 2012].

The Trust replied: “Further to your request for information the costs spent on computer consultants since the inception of the EPR system is £16.6m.”

The Chronicle says that the system is “meant to retrieve patient details in seconds, linking them to the availability of surgeons, beds or therapies, but has forced staff to spend up to 15 minutes navigating through multiple screens to book one routine appointment, leading to backlogs on wards and outpatient clinics”.

Royal Berkshire’s chief executive Edward Donald had said the Cerner Millennium go live was successful.  A trust board paper said:

 “The Chief Executive emphasised that, despite these challenges, the ‘go-live’ at the Trust had been more successful than in other Cerner Millennium sites.”

A similar, stronger message had appeared was in a separate board paper which was released under FOI.  Royal Berkshire’s EPR [electronic patient record] Executive Governance Committee minutes said:

“… the Committee noted that the Trust’s launch had been considered to be the best implementation of Cerner Millennium yet and that despite staff misgivings, the project was progressing well. This positive message should also be disseminated…”


Royal Berkshire went outside the NPfIT. But its costs are even higher than the breathtakingly high costs to the taxpayer of NPfIT Cerner and Lorenzo implementations.

As senior officials at the Department of Health have been so careless with public funds over NHS IT – and have spent millions on the same sets of consultants – they are in no position to admonish Royal Berkshire.

So who can criticise Royal Berkshire and should its chief executive be held accountable?

When it’s official policy to spend tens of millions on EPRs that may or may not make things better for hospitals and patients – and could make things much worse – how can accountability play any part in the purchase of the systems and consultants?

The enormously costly Cerner and Lorenzo EPR implementations go on – in an NHS IT world that is largely without credible supervision, control, accountability or regulation.

Cash squandered on IT help

Trust loses £18m on IT system

The best implementation of Cerner Millennium yet?

IT crisis management – an ongoing NHS case study

By Tony Collins

When a public-facing go-live goes wrong should communications be neutral in tone – or accentuate the positive?

On 8 December 2011 North Bristol NHS Trust went live with the Cerner Millennium electronic patient records system under the NPfIT programme.

At first Trust staff thought the difficulties were confined to a mix-up over outpatient appointments but it later transpired that there were 16 “clinical incidents” between 1 December 2011 and 17 January 2012 that were related to the Cerner Millennium implementation.

The Trust has published regular public information notices on the benefits, expected benefits, and problems arising from the Cerner implementation.

Reassuring in tone, the notices have made no mention of anything more potentially serious than administrative “issues”:  non-existent appointments were set up and letters sent to patients in error. The notices said that though the “issues” caused disruption and frustration, patient safety had not been compromised. The Trust apologised to staff and patients.

Clinical incidents

No mention was made in the notices of staff having reported clinical incidents in which the new patient records system was a causal factor. The NHS usually categorises  each clinical incident as a  “near miss” or “actual harm”.

In Campaign4Change’s various conversations with the North Bristol Trust over the potential seriousness or otherwise of its IT problems, one thing has been clear: it is pleased with the level of public information it has given out over the problems:

–       regularly-updated messages on its website,

–       briefings to the media including interviews for regional BBC and ITV channels by Ruth Brunt, the Trust’s chief executive,

–       board papers,

–       on-time answers to requests under the Freedom of Information Act

–       leaflets and posters placed in outpatient clinics and on car parking machines explaining that the Trust was implementing a new computer system and apologising for any delays patients may experience

The Trust also gave GPs a dedicated telephone number, fax number and email address for GPs or their patients to contact for further advice.

Profuse public information

We agree that the Trust has run a diligent public information campaign; and its communications staff have always responded quickly to our calls –  and with the documents we requested. The staff were frank in answering our questions. They told us that no decision has been taken yet on whether the Trust will publish the results of an independent inquiry into the Cerner implementation.

But if the Trust doesn’t publish the lessons from its Cerner implementation, it may wish to be reminded of a warning by the Local Health Board of Merthyr Tidfil, at the top on its Clinical Incident Reporting Policy paper: –  To err is human; to cover up is unforgivable; to fail to learn is inexcusable.         

If the Trust does not publish how will others learn from its mistakes?

Accentuate the positive?

The quantity of public information released by North Bristol NHS Trust is not an issue – but how informative is  it? Does the wider culture of the Trust still force staff to accentuate the positive?

The first of the Trust’s website statements on the problems of the Cerner implementation came about five weeks after the go-live. The opening sections of the statement made no mention of any problems. Indeed a series of bullet points listed the benefits of the system:

  • Patient records will now be securely stored electronically on a single system, replacing paper records.
  • Authorised clinicians can quickly find and share information on patients and their medical history and no longer rely on paper filing records.
  • Clinicians will also be able to access records at the patient’s bedside and can input information and statistics immediately.
  • Patients will no longer have to repeat their details to different clinicians as they will be accessible in one place.
  • Tests and outpatient appointments can be set up immediately with the patient.

The Trust’s website statement went on to say that “many”wards as well as A&E at Frenchay Hospital [Bristol] are using the new system.

Only if you’ve read this far will you see a reference to problems.

“However, we have experienced some unexpected problems in the last few weeks with outpatient appointments…”

“Huge improvements”

The current media statement is, again, more upbeat than neutral.  The vague mention of problems is countered by the equally vague claim of “huge” improvements.

“At North Bristol NHS Trust we have been implementing a new electronic patient record system to replace an outdated, less efficient system. Our wards, two minor injuries units, the Emergency Department, theatres and maternity are using the new system.

“However, we have experienced some unexpected problems with some of our outpatient clinics resulting in non-existent appointments to be set up and letters sent to patients in error. Our priority is always patient safety and we are clear that this has not been 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. We apologise wholeheartedly for that.

“Our staff have shown real commitment, hard work and dedication to continue to deliver patient care. Our Information Management & Technology Team worked very hard to rectify these problems as quickly as possible and we have seen huge improvements.

“The system in all outpatient clinics has now been rebuilt and relaunched. These clinics are now in a position to effectively use the new electronic records system. We anticipate there will be a further transition period for staff in those clinics. We firmly believe that the new system, once fully implemented, will improve services for our patients and provide real value.”

Campaign4Change pointed out to North Bristol that board papers on the troubled Cerner implementations at Barts and The London were commendably detailed and informative.

Barts had referred breaches of government targets on waiting times, complaints from patients, delays in the reporting of statutory and other trust performance information, extra costs, losses of income because of reduced activity, and the effect of data errors. There has been little of any of this from North Bristol’s public information campaign.

Freedom of information

Indeed North Bristol has refused to answer questions that were asked under the FOI Act by D Haverstock of the South West Whistleblowers Health Action Group.

The Trust refused Haverstock’s requests for:

–        a copy of your Cerner implementation plan, including pilot

–        the criteria on which the go-live decision was taken

–       a copy of the issues log for the implementation, with a full history of closed and open items.

–        reports on Cerner Project Board/Steering Committee meetings.

The Trust did give Haverstock a vague answer to her question on whether the Trust will have to take over the running costs of Cerner from 2015 when the Department of Health’s NPfIT contract with BT ends.

The Trust said the running costs for Cerner will become the Trust’s responsibility from October 2015 – but it doesn’t know for certain what the costs will be.

“The exact costs are still being calculated, but will be around the same levels as our previous patient administration system, we estimate,” said the Trust.

North Bristol declined to answer Haverstock’s other questions because “at this time the Trust feels that to answer your questions regarding the Cerner Millennium implementation would compromise our position with BT and Cerner”.

Rightly, Haverstock challenges the Trust’s use of the word “feels”. Rejections of FOI requests should be based on facts not its feelings.

Says Haverstock in her request to the Trust for an internal review: “Subjective feelings are not a valid reason for rejecting an FOIA request. What is your objective, evidence base for rejecting this request? [Thank to Theyworkforyou.com for this information.]


Poorly-designed health IT can kill, according to a US Institute of Medicine report “Health IT and Patient Safety Building Safer Systems for Better Care” in November 2011.

The report says:

“Poorly designed health IT can create new hazards in the already complex delivery of care.

“Although the magnitude of the risk associated with health IT is not known, some examples illus­trate the concerns.

“Dosing errors, failure to detect life-threatening illnesses, and delaying treatment due to poor human–computer interactions or loss of data have led to serious injury and death …”

There’s no evidence that the problems at North Bristol have caused any harm to patients. Indeed the Trust, in reporting the clinical incidents in response to a BBC’s reporter’s FOI request, says its “robust safeguarding processes, as well as additional checks and balances in all departments” have “ensured that clinical safety was not compromised and no patients were put at risk”.

It adds: “Our priority is always patient safety and there is no indication that this has been affected.”

But would we know if patient safety had been affected? In its public information campaign the Trust has been prolific. But the accent on the positive, rather than a neutral and factual account of the specific problems, has left us with little confidence that all the truth has yet come out.

In an IT-related crisis it is not a mass of information that the public and media regard as helpful but specific answers to specific questions. Has North Bristol managed its IT-related crisis well? Up to a point, Lord Copper.

MP questions costs of North Bristol Cerner system

Sir David Nicholson challenged on North Bristol’s Cerner costs

North Bristol system has more problems than anticipated.

North Bristol hits appointment problems

Cerner system “too entrenched” to be scrapped.

NPfIT Cerner go-live at Bristol – Trust issues apology

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.

Halt Cerner implementations says MP

NHS IT supplier “corrects” Health CIO’s statements

An IT supplier to the NHS has written to MPs to “correct” statements made by Health CIO Christine Connelly.

The implications of the supplier’s corrections are that Conservative MP Richard Bacon might have been right all along:  that the Department of Health may be paying BT as much as £200m more than necessary to install the “RiO” patient record system at 25 trusts in the south of England.

The corrections by CSE Healthcare Systems – supplier of RiO – call into question some of the Department of Health’s justifications for the high costs of NPfIT versions of RiO.

RiO is an electronic patient record system that is supplied to mental health trusts and community service organisations. Trusts can buy directly from CSE Healthcare or via its partner BT Global Services which is the local service provider to London under the National Programme for IT.

Through the NPfIT, BT is installing RiO at 25 trusts in the south of England under a £224.3m NPfIT deal – £8.9m per site, compared with £500,000 to £1.5m per site if supplied to the NHS directly by CSE outside of the national programme.

At a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee on 23 May 2011, Conservative MP Richard Bacon asked Connelly to explain why RiO costs so much more when it is supplied by BT.

Connelly told the Committee that the Department of Health had investigated the RiO costs at Bradford District Care Trust, which is a mental health trust.

Bradford bought RiO outside the NPfIT, using the ASCC framework contract, which enables trusts to buy systems directly from suppliers without going through NPfIT local service providers.

The total cost of RiO at Bradford was £1.3m, which Connelly said was for a 59‑month contract.

She told MPs:

“So the comparison: in terms of the services that we provide, there are a whole set of services that are not within that £1.3m that are inside the Local Service Provider contract.

“Earlier somebody said, ‘Well, doesn’t everybody have disaster recovery.’  Well, actually, no, and at this Trust only 25% availability is provided in their local arrangements, which are not included in these costs.

“So we have a cost in terms of the BT LSP in the South for the same period, which includes the hardware, the support, the disaster recovery at 100%, the Spine connectivity, all of which are not supplied inside this Bradford system.

“If we looked at those costs through BT’s cost profile, it would be valued at £2.5m.”

Bacon pointed out that £2.5m was still much less than £8.9m being charged by BT. He wanted the difference explained.

Connelly said:

“So first there is the period. So we need to take a look at the average period that you would expect to be there, because we pay a one‑off deployment charge and then we pay a monthly charge.  So in terms of the figure that you quote, it is generally for about a four-year period, and the figure we quote is generally for about a six-year period, sometimes a little more.  I think what we get is 24/7 support.

“We get full disaster recovery.  I think it is fine to say, “Oh, anybody has that.”  The cost of full disaster recovery is significant, when you look at the costs that BT have; we invited an external auditor to go look at the cost build-up, and they have audited these costs.  We looked at BT’s profit margin, and they have taken a significant reduction in their profit margin between the original contract and the contract that we have today…”

To which Bacon replied:  “But it is not the taxpayer’s fault if BT has unbelievably high costs.”

Bacon said that one reason the costs are so high is that CSE cannot talk directly to NHS trusts and must go through BT.  “That is the problem with this structure,” said Bacon. “It is like having you over here, and the customer over there, and an enormous thicket, a forest of lawyers, in between.”

Connelly replied that a change to the programme means that suppliers of RiO are now on site “talking to Trusts themselves”.  In London and the South, for RiO, a new user group brings together all the Trusts. Cerner, the supplier of NPfIT patient administration systems in London and the south of England, also deals directly with trusts rather than through BT, said Connelly.

Taking issue with Connelly’s comments about Bradford, this was CSE’s written statement to the Public Accounts Committee:

“During the evidence presented by Ms Christine Connelly, one of our contracts for RiO,  Bradford Mental Health Trust was referenced.

“Ms Connelly’s statement was that Bradford is receiving a lower standard of service than provided by BT in London and hence the lower price charged by CSE Healthcare Systems to Bradford.

“CSE Healthcare Systems wishes to correct the evidence given.

• Ms Connelly stated that the service is NOT 24*7 hours – the service is a 24*7 service.

• Ms Connelly stated that Disaster Recovery (DR) was NOT included in the service – a DR service is included.

• There was no mention of Facilities Management – we provide remote Facilities Management

• The service contract is for five years – not four years as stated.

• Ms Connelly implied that the system only had 25% availability – our records demonstrate that this is not true; the system is architected to achieve an availability of over 99%.”


Another NHS IT supplier Maracis has provided evidence that RiO costs several times more under the NPfIT than outside the programme, for similar levels of service, disaster recovery, availability and support periods.

On its website CSE Healthcare says its system is compliant with the NPfIT data “spine” and supports established standards for interoperability such as HL7 and XML.

The Public Accounts Committee is finalising a report on the NPfIT detailed care record systems. Its findings will be based on its questioning of Connelly and other witnesses, written evidence from CSE and others, and a report of the National Audit Office in May.

Connelly, who is Director General of Informatics, has announced she is leaving at the end of this month, after three years. She is being replaced in the interim by Katie Davis, who is from the Cabinet Office.

MP questions why IT costs at two nearby hospital trusts are vastly different for similar systems

By Tony Collins

A Conservative MP has asked the NHS Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson to explain why an NHS trust is deploying a centrally-chosen Cerner patient record system at more than twice the cost of a similar but non-NPfIT system at a nearby Foundation trust.

University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust is deploying the Medway system from System C  (now owned by McKesson] at a reported cost of £8.2m over seven years. The acute trust is one of the largest in the country.

With support for less than five years, the nearby North Bristol NHS trust is taking the Cerner Millennium patient record system under the NPfIT at a cost of £21m from BT – and the go-live date in June has slipped to July.

Now Richard Bacon, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, has written to Sir David Nicholson asking for an explanation of why the two trusts are paying vastly different amounts for systems that do similar things. Bacon has also asked Nicholson whether he believes the higher sum is value for money.

The average cost of BT Cerner go-lives under  the NPfIT is £28.3m according to the National Audit Office.

Bacon’s letter is part of evidence which suggests that continuing NPfIT contracts is costing hundreds of millions of pounds more than necessary.

The coalition government, despite its plan to cut public sector IT costs, may spend a further £3bn to 4.bn with the NPfIT’s two major suppliers, BT and CSC, though the Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Authority is reviewing CSC’s £2.9bn worth of contracts.

Bacon’s letter also questions advance payments to CSC, and whether a recent hearing of the Public Accounts Committee was told the full truth.

An unwavering defender of the NPfIT, Nicholson is likely to defend the cost of the North Bristol implementation, and the advance payments to CSC. On costs, he will argue that North Bristol’s systems have better resilience than at non-NPfIT sites.

If that were true – and there is no evidence it is – the extra costs of having a “hot”, or real-time standby data centre, may not justify a doubling of a rival’s prices. 

This is Bacon’s letter to Sir David Nicholson:

Chief Executive, National Health Service, Department of Health, Richmond House, London SW1A 2NS

27 June 2011

Dear Sir David


I am writing following the hearing of the Public Accounts Committee on Monday 23 May 2011, to follow up on two important issues that were raised during your evidence:


In your supplementary memorandum to the PAC following the hearing you gave a total of advance payments made up to 31 March 2011, in respect of all contracts over the whole period of the Programme, of £2,532m of which suppliers have retained £1,328m. You also identified a further £119 million of advance payments to be earned or refunded.  Since the memorandum was received by the PAC, it has been reported that the NHS made an advance payment of £200 million to CSC in April 2011.

I should be most grateful if you would let me know the answers to the following questions:

Is this report accurate?

Why was this payment was not reported to the PAC, either during the hearing or in the subsequent memorandum?

What was the justification for this payment and what value does it represent to the NHS?

What will happen in respect of this payment if a new memorandum of understanding is not in fact signed with CSC?

I would also be grateful if you would comment on the CSC filing with the US Security and Exchange Commission, which states that in the opinion of the company, if the NHS were to terminate the current contract “for convenience” it would owe fees totalling less than the $1 billion asset value CSC now has on its books for the contract.  

How is this consistent with the claim at the PAC  hearing by Ms Connelly that the cost of terminating the CSC deal could “potentially leave us exposed to a higher cost than if we completed as it stands today”?


Second, I would be grateful if you could comment on the cost of deploying Cerner Millennium at North Bristol, reported in your memorandum as £21 million, including service for 56 months, and on the current expected go-live date.  Specifically:

Can you explain why the delivery date agreed with BT at the contract “reset” was 4th June 2011?

Why it was then revised to 2nd July 2011?

And why it now appears that there is no agreed delivery date at all?

Can you also give your best comparison of the cost of deploying the Cerner Millennium system at North Bristol, with the cost to University Hospitals Bristol of deploying the System C Healthcare Medway system outside the National Programme?  It would appear from media reports that this latter contract includes deployment of functionality including PAS, Accident and Emergency, maternity, theatres, clinical data collection, and a data warehouse and reporting system, as well as integration of third party and current Trust applications.  According to the National Audit Office, the average cost for each new site under the BT South contract is £28.3 million, but the cost of the Medway system to UHB has been reported as £8.2 million over seven years. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/healthcare-network/2011/may/19/university-hospitals-bristol-foundation-trust-awards-e-patient-contract)   What is the justification for this apparent difference?

As the Senior Responsible Owner for the National Programme, can you give your explicit undertaking that the North Bristol contract represents value for money for taxpayers?

I look forward to receiving your reply.

With many thanks

Yours sincerely

Richard Bacon

MP for South Norfolk, Member of the Public Accounts Committee