Many NHS staff in the south were left unable to use the Cerner Millennium care record system last Wednesday morning, after the Fujitsu-provided system failed across the region for the second time in a month.

As a result of problems with the centrally hosted system, that lasted an entire Wednesday morning, some staff had to switch to pen and paper while others either had no access or had to endure lengthy waits while logging in.

Six of the eight trusts live with the system have confirmed to E-Health Insider that they experienced problems. The remaining two – Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire – declined to respond to questions.

For staff at some of the trusts – including Nuffield Orthopaedic Trust – it was the second failure in weeks.

The unspecified failure occurred on Wednesday, 7 May, lasting between 8.00am and 1.00pm and caused increased log-in times for users across the region, with many having to try and access the patient administration system from different PC’s on-site.

The incident follows a similar system failure three weeks ago when Millennium systems in Milton Keynes Hospitals NHS Trust; Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre NHS Trust; Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust and Buckinghamshire PCT went down and stayed down for an hour.

Neither Fujitsu, local service provider to the programme, or Connecting for Health, the NHS agency delivering the National Programme for IT, were able to confirm the extent of the failure, but said they were aware of the problem and were investigating its cause.

A Fujitsu spokesperson told EHI: “Fujitsu is aware that some issues were reported and is investigating these reports thoroughly.”

Steve Finch, head of communications for the Southern Programme for IT, added: “I can confirm that on Wednesday 7 May it was reported that some staff experienced increased log in times and others were unable to log in. While the issue was reported by some trusts across the south of England, it did not affect every member of staff using the system.

“The incident was closed on the same day and Fujitsu is investigating the cause of the issue to ensure any repeat of the same problem is avoided.”

Trusts told EHI that as a result of the problems, some users had to work manually and those logged onto the system experienced slow processing speeds.

According to Weston Area NHS Trust, the downtime affected the whole cluster, leaving some users unable to work on the system.

A spokesperson for Weston Area Health NHS Trust added: “There was a problem with Cerner Millennium on Wednesday morning, 7 May, which was across the Southern Cluster and not solely at Weston. This meant that some users could not access Cerner and others experienced slow performance. Some areas of the hospital put alternative systems in place while the system was fixed. Everything was back to normal by lunchtime.”

Reports of painfully slow performance and difficulties logging into the centrally-hosted system were also reported to EHI by three other trusts in the region using the R0 Cerner Millennium software.

A Taunton and Somerset NHS Trust spokesperson said: “We did experience some problems with Cerner on Wednesday morning 7 May. This meant that some users could not access the system and others who could access experienced slow performance. Some areas of the hospital put alternative systems in place while the system was fixed. Everything was back to normal by 1.30pm”

A Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre NHS Trust spokesperson added: “Cerner Millennium did go down at 07.50 hours on 7 May. Not all of our servers were affected and some users were able to continue using the CRS. Manual procedures were in place for those who were unable to connect to the system until the problem was resolved at 1.20pm.”

Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust said the problem affected only a small number of trust PCs, but those users had to find alternative systems to work from.

A spokesperson said: “A problem with Cerner was detected and reported at 08.30 on Wednesday 7 May. It affected less than half of our PCs and some areas were completely unaffected. Patient care was not affected although the issue did cause some inconvenience while staff found other PCs to log on to. The problem was resolved by 13.00.”

Such widespread problems with the LSP-provided CRS application occurring twice within a month is likely to raise concerns about the systems reliability and ability to be further scaled up to cope with further users.

Bath is scheduled to be the next NHS trust in the South to go-live with Millennium, provided by Fujitsu. However a spokesperson for the trust told EHI no firm go-live date had yet been agreed.

In a written answer to Parliament this week, health minister Ben Bradshaw, told Parliament the Fujitsu contract reset is still under negotiation.

“The Department continues to negotiate constructively with Fujitsu on the company’s proposals to reset its supplier contract under the national programme for information technology,” he said.

“Reset is a normal, repeatable, process, for contracts with a long lifetime to ensure that their ongoing delivery reflects progress to date, current priorities, and deployment plans for the future, and that they continue to support the evolving needs of the NHS. Reset also allows for the option of agreeing enhancements to existing services or functionality that does not effect a change in contract scope or risk allocation,” he added.

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