West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has signed a ten-year contract with Cerner to implement its Millennium electronic patient record system, in a shift from a ‘best of breed’ to ‘single supplier’ approach to EPR.

The trust is planning to deploy the patient administration system, as well as modules for A&E, clinical noting, nursing observations, and patient deterioration.

Dermot O’Riordan, the trust’s chief clinical information officer and interim chief executive, told EHI the trust needed to replace its PAS, which is more than 20 years old, and wanted to take a single system approach.

“We made a policy decision that we want to implement a single, integrated system so all the information is in one place to provide the safest care for patients.”

O’Riordan said the trust has previously taken a ‘best of breed’ approach to its EPR. While it had some “very good” systems, the need to replace its PAS offered the opportunity to deal with clinicians’ issues with using multiple systems.

“Clinicians are used to doing a lot of things, but there were frustrated with having multiple systems and multiple log-ons, and [the systems] didn’t always talk to each other.”

While the trust had been using a portal to integrate systems and address those concerns, O’Riordan said it was aware it “would soon get to the limit of what that could do for us.”

Moving to a single system will help the trust with its plans to integrate with other care providers, he said. “For the future, having a single integrated system will be a great help.

“We’re keen to integrate with GP providers and other providers, such as in tertiary care, and we felt that with a single system, that was the best opportunity to go ahead with that, as well.”

O’Riordan said the EPR will also allow staff to work more efficiently by reducing unnecessary duplication that takes place with paper-based forms.

“If you look through our paper notes, the number of places where a patient’s weight could be recorded is huge. This makes it very easy for clinicians to do the right thing, and that will improve the quality of care.”

O’Riordan said £17.2m will be invested in the project over the ten-year contract, with an estimated £22.4m of savings over the same period likely to come from avoiding duplication and improving productivity.

“If you can identify a deteriorating patient and prevent them becoming worse and going to intensive care, that prevents the cost of intensive care and is far better for the patient,” he said as an example of where savings should come from.

He added that the benefits of moving to a single EPR will accrue across the entire NHS sector, due to the greater possibilities for integration and information sharing. 

O’Riordan said the trust hopes to go-live in October next year, with an “accelerated rollout” of an e-prescribing system to follow, and the potential to deploy maternity and theatre modules.

The trust’s current focus is on identifying its current processes to make sure they align with the EPR, while developing its plans to integrate with systems at other organisations.

“I’m well aware of the size of the project. We’re not a huge organisation, but we have big ambitions,” he said.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust runs a 480 bed hospital in Bury St Edmonds for the surrounding population of about 275,000 people.

EHI recently spoke to West Suffolk's CCIO and interim chief executive Dermot O’Riordan about his job and ambition for the trust's Cerner implementation. You can read all about it here.