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79 Milton Keynes staff say Millennium "not fit for purpose"

04 Apr 2007

Seventy-nine clinicians and admin staff at Milton Keynes General Hospital have written an open letter to the management stating that the new Cerner Millennium system installed by Fujitsu in February is "not fit purpose".

In their open letter, the staff describe the software as "awkward and clunky" and state: "In our opinion the system should not be installed in any further hospitals."

Reported problems include clinics not being available, patient notes being lost or unavailable, staff being trained on a different system to the one implemented and problems with reporting around key areas such as 18-week waits. One senior clinician from the trust described the situation in outpatients as "a nightmare".

NHS Connecting for Health said that there had been "some unacceptable problems" with the new system installed at Milton Keynes which "require immediate attention".

The patient administration system introduced to Milton Keynes General Hospital five weeks ago as part of the Government’s £12.4 billion IT scheme for the NHS, was installed after repeated delays. The Cerner system is meant to provide the foundations for developing a Care Records Service (CRS) of electronic medical records.

The Millennium system replaced a 20-year old green screen system at Milton Keynes. The American Cerner system, supplied by Fujitsu, has been installed at five NHS trusts in the South. All are due to eventually get the same software.

In a statement Fujitsu said: "It is normal for new IT systems to have a bedding down period where issues are dealt with before it becomes a part of everyday working life. However, it is clear that in this case there have been some high impact problems and we regret any inconvenience that this has caused to patients and clinicians."

Cerner said in a statement to EHI: "Cerner continues to work with Fujitsu and CfH to address the issues and to support the Trust in addressing any remaining concerns following Go-live".

Despite that fact that all 79 staff who signed the open letter work for the trust Milton Keynes referred all press enquiries from E-Health Insider to NHS Connecting for Health.

A spokesperson confirmed, however, that staff had previously voiced their discontent and concerns about the new IT system through more standard trust channels.

Asked to confirm whether the letter did say that the signatories believed the system should not be installed in any further hospitals the spokesperson said "that is in the letter".

Local paper Milton Keynes News quoted hospital consultant Dr Richard Butterworth as saying. "Outpatients is currently a nightmare with no notes."

Dr Butterworth told a recent Board meeting that clinics laboriously set up on Millennium are no longer available as intended. "We spent months setting up new clinics but they are no longer visible on CRS. If these are teething problems that's great but otherwise I have concerns."

He is also quoted as saying that there have been problems with missing notes. "The new system meant that 40 patients had no sets of case notes". "It's much harder to see follow-up patients if you haven't got the old notes."

BT, which has the contract to deliver NHS IT upgrades in the capital, is also due to install the software in all hospitals in London.

MK News also quoted the trust's finance director Rob Baird as saying: "CRS is one of the biggest things that has happened in the organisation." He added that trust staff had worked "way beyond the expectations we could have of them"

He acknowledged that services had suffered though "The service to our patients in some areas has diminished in this period. At the moment we have quite a confused situation and it's like everyone had started a new job".

Baird added: "One of the problems was the system that we trained on was not the system that we went active with, it was a training version that was different." He concluded "We have found that in some areas it's not been as good as we would like it to be."

In a written response to EHI CfH said "Milton Keynes Trust identified some unacceptable problems with the newly installed system and raised these initially with Fujitsu (the supplier).

The agency said: "It is clear that there are some issues at the trust which need immediate attention and we share their disappointment that they have experienced these problems. Ensuring this is resolved and normal service is resumed is a top priority."

CfH said that having been informed of the problems by the trust on Friday 30th March it "responded immediately" and has set up a dedicated team to work through the problems.

The DH agency added: "There will be no payments made to Fujitsu until the system is working satisfactorily."

Fujitsu said that there were "16 issues" that had been identified as needing to be addressed after go-live, with six being of "greater priority". "They included case note tracking, re-scheduling out-patients and missing data fields. Fujitsu said five of the six, have been resolved and the one remaining is due to be resolved by the middle of April.

It added that three of the lower priority issues "remain under investigation and an on-site team from Fujitsu and Cerner are currently working with the Trust to resolve them."

Fujitsu promised that lessons would be learned from the Milton Keynes implementation "We continue to work closely with NHS Connecting for Health to rectify any issues as soon as possible. There are lessons to be learned from this particular deployment and we will ensure that these are taken on board for the future."