Cerner has started working with NHS trusts on a new, local implementation model that is designed to prevent the repitition of past mistakes, and focus on clinical benefits.

The company says that through its NHS contract it still has the potential to transform the entire healthcare economy, but says that while holding on to the big picture benefits it will now work locally.

In an exclusive interview with E-Health Insider, Jeff Townsend, vice president of R&D and the most senior Cerner executive responsible for the company’s National Programme for IT in the NHS contracts, said lessons have been learned from a “difficult” 12 months.

Implementations of Cerner’s Millennium care records system at first Barts and the London NHS Trust and then at the Royal Free Hospital Hampstead NHS Trust went badly wrong, with delays to patient care and lost revenues.

The Royal Free instituted a 90 day recovery programme, and NHS chief executive David Nicholson made it clear that problems must be fixed before any further trusts would take the Cerner system. The recovery was finally declared a success in February, and trusts were told to “re-engage”.

Townsend acknowledged that the high profile problems hurt the company’s reputation in the UK and internationally. But he said: “There has been a change in our approach on deployment that has been learned over the past 90-120 days.”

Cerner says the outcome is a more flexible implementation approach that is based on far more local configuration of Millennium than was originally envisaged. Townsend said this had already been proved at the Royal Free.

He also said it was being pursued by Cerner ahead of any new local service provider contract being signed with BT as local service provider for London. “We’re now going to carry on working locally and hope the contracts catch up,” he told EHI.

Townsend said that the LSP contracts for London and the South – and so Cerner’s position – are currently “in transition.” With BT shedding contractors and implementation expertise, the expectation is that Cerner will have a much more direct role in subsequent installations.

He added that preparatory work was now underway with the next trusts planning to take Cerner Millennium in London, and that development work on the second London release of Millennium was now complete. This promises a lot more functionality in areas such as theatres, accident and emergency and discharge notes.

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