Four trusts in Kent and Medway are still experiencing problems with their radiology information system from GE Healthcare.

The trusts previously used the company’s picture archiving and communications system , while the RIS was supplied by HSS. Both components were contracted under the local service provider contract for the South which was set up as part of the National Programme for IT.

In September 2011 the trusts formed a consortium and went out to a collaborative tender in early 2012.

The four trusts signed a seven year contract and went live with the PACS/RIS in July last year but have all experienced problems with the system since.

Earlier this year, further upgrades to the system took place, but according to Medway NHS Foundation Trust, one of the consortium members, the upgrade did not solve the issues.

The trust’s March board papers say that difficulties “are still being experienced in the implementation of the RIS.”

“Further upgrades to address ongoing problems with the system had not been successful and the trust is continuing to negotiate with the supplier for compensation for additional costs incurred,” say the papers.

EHI reported in October last year that problems included delays in appointment booking, data migration and system slowness.

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust’s April risk register says that appointment bookings are still affecting the ability to report and book appointments electronically.

The risk register says that this “could result in patients not receiving a timely diagnosis or treatment of their clinical condition.”

In Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust’s March board assurance framework update, the board was told that the RIS problems have “reduced functionality and connectivity levels between systems.”

At Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, where EHI reported in August that patients were waiting twice as long as usual for scan results, board papers now indicate that some of the issues, in particular around reporting, have been solved.

The trust has put in place an additional 14 reporting sessions and has managed to clear a large backlog.

A spokesperson from GE Healthcare told EHI that it is working very hard to solve the issues with the RIS.

“A positive resolution of the implementation of the radiology information system at Kent continues to have our highest priority and we are working very closely with our customers to ensure it performs to their expectations,” said the spokesperson. 

“We very much regret any adverse impact this has had on our customers and their patients. We have deployed dedicated engineers to develop a new release of software to be implemented and we have invested heavily in resources prioritised by the trusts to adopt the new system, including hundreds of training days.”

Trusts have incurred extra costs to solve the issues with the system. EHI reported in October last year that Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust was spending an additional £44,000 a month in staff costs to compensate for the problems.

The trusts are currently negotiating with GE on payment for additional costs.

The GE spokesperson told EHI the company is “working with the consortium to address costs incurred due to the system not performing as expected by the trusts.”

“These improvements and a quick conclusion to the financial discussions have our absolute priority.”

EHI approached each of the four trusts individually for comment, but did not get a reply.