St George’s Hospital NHS Trust in South-West London has taken a strategic decision to try and begin using Cerner Millennium by Christmas.

The electronic patient record system, to be provided by BT under the National Programme for IT in the NHS, will replace an obsolete, 23-year old iSoft patient administration system.

The trust says the programme, known internally as the Integrated Clinical Information Programme (iCLIP), will help its staff to work more efficiently and to improve care for patients. St George’s says the deployment approach is phased, “rather than a single, across-the-board implementation.”

Ian Frost, iCLIP programme manager, told E-Health Insider: “The first phase will replace PAS, and provide integrated A&E, bed management and data warehousing systems. The next phase, expected spring 2010, will bring new theatre and therapies management systems.”

He added: “St George’s plans for the first deployment phase of Cerner Millennium to commence on Monday 21 December 2009.”

The iCLIP programme will introduce safer processes to the trust, such as the automated printing of wristbands to reduce the incidence of transcribing errors, and bar code technology to provide safer blood/drug administration.

The trust first approved a business case to implement Cerner in November 2007, but put off the move following the severe difficulties experienced by both Barts and the London and the Royal Free Hampstead trusts when they went live with Millennium last June.

Using a new, more expensive, Cerner-led local implementation model two London trusts – Kingston and St George’s – are now cautiously aiming to start using Millennium by the end of 2009. In the case of St George’s, the cost of the project has risen £2.2m to £6.9m, a 31% increase on the original business case of £4.7m.

However, trust board papers say that further delay “is not a practical option” because existing systems are no longer viable and must be replaced.” Having examined other options, the board decided to proceed with the Department of Health funded Cerner Millennium package offered through NPfIT.

Options rejected include developing an in-house replacement, which the papers say “would be very expensive”. They claim that this had cost “another NHS trust about £50m to implement.” The unfortunate trust referred to is not named.

The papers also argue that St George’s will benefit from lessons learned from the experience of the early implementer sites for Cerner Millennium in London.