Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals has signed a contract with Portugese firm, Alert Life Sciences Computing, for a full electronic patient record system.

Ian Arbuthnot, director of IT at the trust, said the contract was signed last week.  In total the trust plans to spend £34m over ten years on the EPR project.

The contract is said to cover urgent care, order communications and results reporting, e-prescribing and medication administration, integrated care pathways and care planning, decision support and clinical integration.

“We haven’t been blessed with a huge investment in modern IT systems over a number of years, so we’re starting from a poor position – no poorer than most other trusts – but there are some things that need to be fixed rather quickly,” Arbuthnot explained.

Arbuthnot said order communications sprang to mind as a high priority for roll-out, but the final plan would depend on what came out of the focus groups with clinicians.

He said clinicians had been involved from the outset of the EPR project and there was a real sense of enthusiasm from everyone in the organisation to be involved.

“The moment we had the contract signed I had an inbox full of people who want to be involved and a part of it, I’m buoyed up by the level of engagement we have had so far,” he added.

As first reported by EHI last year, Brighton initially selected Alert as its preferred bidder in July 2011. The plan was to provide Alert’s clinical functionality in tandem with an existing Oasis PAS.

Arbuthnot said he aimed to deploy the first module within this financial year and have all modules deployed within three years. The trust will retain its existing pharmacy system and Oasis PAS and and build the Alert modules in around them.

The trust expects the new system to reduce length of stay, remove transcription errors and improve prescription errors, reduce pressure on pathology, make nurse changover times safer and improve the patient experience.

Arbuthnot said as an ex-clinician himself, he had never seen a system that was “as intuitive and comprehensive” as that offered by Alert.

“There’s something about the system that is designed around clinicians by clinicians that makes it such a powerful offering,” he said.

“While excitement levels at the trust were high, he was also aware of the all the risks and potential issues of implementing such a major project which he said has “massive exposure at the board level.”

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals, chief executive, Duncan Selbie was quoted in an Alert press release as saying: “I am delighted to confirm Alert as our EPR contractor.

"This is the culmination of two years intensive work by many and is a defining and landmark moment. All those involved in the programme to date are now ready to start implementation in earnest.”

Selbie added: “The comprehensive functionality, clinical buy-in, and Alert’s modern approach to implementation give us great confidence that we will achieve something of superb clinical benefit."

Since being selected as preferred bidder last July, Alert has run into difficulties. In November 2011 the company was dropped by Circle Health, Bath, from a contract to provide the first fully anglicised version of the Alert EPR system. The company was also dropped by Dutch customers.

Alert first went live with an EPR at its reference NHS site, Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Hospitals NHS Foundation, in November 2010.  Progress since then has been slower than hoped for.

Alert has enjoyed rapid international expansion, with a string of sites in the US, South America and Europe, but is said to have suffered as a result of wider problems facing the Portugese economy.

Miguel Rocha, head of global operations, of Alert said: “We are privileged to have secured this important contract with BSUH and see it as a critical landmark for our global operation and our work here in the UK.”

Rocha added that Alert planned to work with Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals “to implement a ‘showcase’ EPR to support [the trust’s] ambitions."