Minister’s unfulfilled promises on Cerner go-lives
Officials at Royal West Sussex NHS Trust – St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester – seem relieved that Fujitsu is departing the National Programme for IT [NPfIT], for it means they can keep their existing “robust” patient administration system.
But Health Minister Ben Bradshaw had told the House of Commons that the West Sussex trust was expected to go live with the Cerner Millennium system – supplied by Fujitsu – in the early part of 2008″.
Answering a Parliamentary question from Conservative MP [Worthing West] Peter Bottomley, Bradshaw told the House of Commons on 7 January 2008:
“Nine health communities have to date gone live with the Cerner Millennium system provided through the national programme … Four further trusts are currently expected to go live with the existing release (release 0) of the Millennium system by the early part of 2008. These are Taunton and Somerset NHS Trust in 2007, and the Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust, the Royal West Sussex Hospital Trust, and Barts and the London NHS Trust in 2008. Thereafter, release 1 of the system will form the basis for other implementations across both Local Service Provider areas in 2008-09 and beyond…”
But some officials and clinicians at Royal West Sussex Hospital Trust had been planning to go live with the Cerner system with some foreboding. In April 2007 the trust’s board noted what had happened with Cerner implementations at other hospitals. Nick Fox, Director of Planning said:
“The implementation of Cerner Millennium to replace SemaHelix, our current Patient
Administration System, as part of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) is expected summer 2007.
“With the contrasting messages from the two recent implementations in February 2007, Winchester reported that everything went as expected and was a “safe” system whereas at Milton Keynes 79 clinicians and admin staff wrote an open letter stating that the new system is ‘not fit for purpose’, we are obviously taking great interest in the lessons to be learned from these projects.
“As a result, we have identified 17 key areas in which we need confidence before we can launch the implementation phase of the local NPfIT project three months before go-live.”
Now that it has emerged Fujitsu is leaving the NPfIT, Nick Fox seems more settled. He has reported to his Board that there has been a national delay over Cerner. He advised directors that “in the light of Fujitsu withdrawing from the national contract, the Trust’s current robust patient administration system would continue for the foreseeable future”.
The trust’s auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers have said in the past about the SemaHelix system:
“The support and training provided on the use of the Trust-wide SemaHelix system appears to be an area in which the Trust does particularly well, with almost uniformly positive feedback from staff during our audit and no data entry errors noted through our detailed testing.”
Chief Executive at Bath’s Royal United Hospital is extremely disappointed
James Scott, Chief Executive of Bath’s Royal United Hospital, is not pleased about Fujitsu’s departure. Bath’s board has been hoping for years to replace an ancient system, TDS, which has served the hospital well since it was installed in the early 1990s but is well past its prime.
This was Scott’s recent letter to staff:
Millennium – Delay to go-live
Today’s Project Board considered whether we should proceed through the Millennium “two week gateway” – i.e, are we on track to achieve a go-live on 12th July?
This is a very important ‘gateway’ as it triggers a whole series of tasks to transfer information from TDS to Millennium and therefore it was really important that we were sure we were ready and confident to go forward.
I am extremely sorry to say that we were not able to go through this gateway and as such the go-live date of 12th July will not be achieved. The reasons for this recommendation relate to the current external contractual position.
You may be aware that the contract between NHS and Fujitsu which included our Millennium project, was brought to an end on 28th May 2008. Since then, we have spent a massive amount of time working with people at the highest levels of Fujitsu, Cerner and the NHS to make sure that we understood how our project would be supported firstly by Fujitsu and then by the provider who replaces them. We are the only project in this position and as such our issues were ‘unique’ and have required a great deal of consideration. Whilst we have had messages of support from all parties, our assessment at this morning’s Project Board was that there was not sufficient confidence as of today to allow us to start the countdown to ‘go-live’. The Project Board is therefore recommending to Trust Board that the project does not proceed to go-live on 12th July.
As a result of this recommendation, Fujitsu have reviewed their own position and have reached the decision that they need to stand their project team down. The immediate consequence of the recommendation for our own staff is that no further Millennium training will take place until we are clear about the way forward.
Over the next days and weeks we will be working out what this delay means for us and I will of course share with you our new timetable for deployment.
I am extremely disappointed to be writing to let you know of this change as I know just how hard the project team and operational leaders of the trust have been working to get us ready for 12th July. I also know how many staff have committed to training. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the team specifically and staff generally for their continued commitment during this time of uncertainty.
As soon as I am able to tell you more, I will.
James Scott, Chief Executive
As long ago as October 2005 the Bath trust’s auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers was reporting that delays with NPfIT systems were causing problems and had financial implications. In the RUH 2004/5 annual audit letter, PricewaterhouseCoopers said:
“National Programme for IT … The Trust has encountered many issues as a direct result of delays in the programme but these delays have been outside of the Trust’s control.
“Delays have resulted in an impact on resources, and finances particularly as additional investment in current systems had to be made to ensure that they continue to function until they can be replaced.
“The uncertainty with regard to the implementation date has hindered effective planning and project management…
“The delay in NPfIT impacts upon financial risk to the Trust as it is required to spend both time and money supporting/maintaining its existing systems, whilst awaiting the development of the new systems to progress.
“Whilst the Trust has had to react to issues out of its direct control, it needs to have an appropriate contingency plan in place to manage its exposure to financial risks resulting from the delays in NPfIT and needs to continue to apply the necessary pressure in the relevant fora to ensure that its concerns are heard and addressed.
“The Trust Board needs to be kept appraised of progress with the NPfIT and of the financial implications of delays.”
Bath shelves Millennium go-live – E-Health Insider
Cerner immune from economic troubles, apparently – The Health Care Blog May 2008
Cerner profits climb – Healthcare informatics
Bath looks to learn of patient system roll-out – Computer Weekly 2007
Minister defensive over Cerner NPfIT go-live NHS sites – IT Projects Blog