Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has rolled an electronic medication management system from Cerner across 1800 of its beds in just 12 months.

The hospital, which became the first in the country to go-live with the system in December 2009, has been rolling it out at a rate of “a few wards a week” since deciding to accelerate its roll out in January 2010.

Speaking at a Cerner event last week, Neil Watson, chief pharmacist at the trust, said: “We’re in the last phase now, with one ward going live yesterday and one today. We’ve done around 2,000 beds in 12 months and it’s been great fun and a huge amount of hard work.”

The trust is using the system to prescribe 14,000 medicines per day and has gone live across all general wards, excluding paediatrics; where it became clear there were too many order sentences involved, increasing the risk of selection error.

Watson explained: “When we realised we retreated hastily and decided to implement something different in paediatrics. We’re going to start building that now.”

Although not originally in the project plan, the trust has also gone live in its intensive care units, although it says it is yet to implement decision support across the trust.

Watson added: “We realised that by excluding intensive care we suddenly had a huge number of issues with transfers of patients from paper to electronic.

“It would have been a big mistake to ignore it, so what we decided to do when going live on our second site was do ITU first, not with all the bells and whistles but it’s good enough.”

Newcastle was the first trust in the North, Midlands and East to reject the offering by local service provider CSC, which is contracted to supply iSoft’s Lorenzo product under the National Programme for IT in the NHS. Instead, it took Cerner Millennium from supplier UPMC.

Watson said that using electronic medicines management has reduced adverse prescribing incidents and given the trust visibility of errors if they occur.

It has also given it more visibility on whether those administering the drugs are following best practice and adhering to medicine’s policy.

In addition, the trust is using the system to provide accurate, up to date medicines information as part of its discharge summaries.

“We’ve been able to pull the list of medications seamlessly together with the clinical detail put together by the junior doctors and nursing staff, so it can be sent to the GP.

"At the moment it’s getting there in four to eight hours, which the GPs say is like the Holy Grail for them.”