Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust wants to stick with the Cerner Millennium system it deployed as part of the National Programme for IT in the NHS and to add a Cerner radiology information system.

The trust is the first of the Cerner ‘live sites’ in the South of England to confirm that it hopes to retain the electronic patient record beyond the end of the national contracts in October 2015.

It went live with Millennium in April 2007. Board meeting minutes from earlier this year say the trust has decided to accept a licence from Cerner, “thereby committing to staying with Cerner Millennium for the foreseeable future.”

The trust has withdrawn from the Sussex PACS/RIS consortium and will buy Cerner’s RIS RadNet and go out to tender for a new picture archiving and communication system.

Director of information and facilities Ian Mackenzie said Cerner’s Southern sites had received a letter from the company saying they own the license to use the software in perpetuity, but trusts would need to secure hosting and support beyond 2015.

Surrey and Sussex Healthcare intends to go out to a full procurement for that work and may collaborate with one or more other Southern trusts on the tender.

“It’s our plan to do that, but we need to test the legality of the process with regards to the Cerner license,” Mackenzie said.

“We want to find the best companies that can work with us to support and host Millennium. Whilst clearly Cerner can do this, we want to fully understand the market that is available.”

While the board has signed off on the principle of accepting the Cerner license, it has not yet signed up to spending any money on it.

Mackenzie said that hosting and support will add a significant amount to the trust’s IT revenue spend, which is not currently in the trust’s budget.

He explained that he did not see how a business case for moving to an entirely new system – with the data migration and training that would involve – could be put together.

“Unless there’s a fundamental flaw in the system you have currently got, I think your natural instinct should be to stay with it,” he said.

“We have spent five years implementing it, including PAS, ED, theatres and order communications, so there would have to be a very compelling argument for moving to a different system.”

He added that there were always issues with systems and Millennium was no exception. But the trust feels it is a better strategic option to build on what it has got than to rip and replace it with yet another system.

“The strategy for us is we believe we have a very good EPR system and we can’t see the logic of not developing it,” said Mackenzie.

He also argued it would take a minimum of three years – and probably longer – for the trust to get back to the position it is in now if it decided to swap systems.

“I don’t know if I could say to my board, with any credibility, ‘we have this system which is one of the best and most widely used in the world, licensed to use free of charge, but I want to spend significantly more for a new system’ – I wouldn’t want to do that.”

The trust can buy Cerner’s Radnet through the current national contract arrangement, avoiding a time-consuming procurement process.