The boss of the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust has blamed the new NHS electronic medical records system – the flagship project of the £12.7 billion NHS IT programme – for causing "heartache and hard work".

Andrew Way, chief executive at the Royal Free, said technical problems had cost the trust £10m, leaving it unable to invest in new medical equipment such as x-ray machines.

As previously reported by E-Health Insider, Royal Free is the first NHS Trust in London to pilot the London Release of the NHS Care Records System provided by prime contractor BT, using software provided by US firm Cerner.

Way told BBC News that technical problems had caused more work for staff and meant out-patients’ bookings were taking four times as long.

To handle the extra workload the hospital has had to employ another 40 administrative staff, said Way.

Because not all activity is being accurately recorded or reported on by the system the hospital has been unable to bill for treatment provided.

Overall, the hospital has spent an extra £4m to get the system working. In addition, it estimates £6m of revenue has been lost because of fewer patients and lost activity revenue. The trust is trying to recover some of the additional costs from BT and NHS London.

First installed in July of last year the trusts initially reported the system was going well, but within months of go live serious problems emerged. This followed significant problems at three earlier hospitals in the capital to have recieved the software from BT under the NHS National Programme for IT.

Problems have also been reported at a number of the eight hospitals in the South of England to have installed a version of the same electronic records software. All further implementations of the software in the region are currently on hold.

In November EHI reported that the trust faced a £7.2m deficit as a result of the problems experienced with the Cerner electronic records software.

In October the NHS in London instituted an emergency 90-day recovery plan at the trust, and had to put on hold all future implementation plans.

One week ago the London Acute Programme Board recommended that the implementation of Cerner Millennium should restart in London.


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