It’s good for the NHS’s National Programme for IT that the NHS Chief Executive’s David Nicholson and the NHS IT Director General Richard Granger have been willing to visit Milton Keynes General Hospital to hear first-hand the concerns of staff and doctors over the shortcomings in a Cerner Millennium system installed earlier this year.
Seventy nine staff including doctors at Milton Keynes General Hospital had signed a letter complaining about a Care Records Service system installed under the NHS’s National Programme for IT [NPfIT].
An aim of NHS Connecting for Health, which runs the NPfIT, is to provide integrated Care Records Service systems containing electronic health records on 50 million people in England.
It’s understood that, at Milton Keynes, Nicholson and Granger listened to some sharp criticisms of the systems from staff and doctors. The trust says the visit was “primarily to look at the introduction of the new patient records computer system”.
Nicholson is overall senior responsible owner for the £12.4bn NPfIT and Granger is senior responsible for the programme and systems delivery.
Milton Keynes Trust Chief Executive Jill Rodney said: “We valued this opportunity to highlight at first hand the progress being made to iron out initial glitches. Frontline staff also had the chance to discuss their continuing concerns around performance aspects of the new system.
“The visit formed part of an ongoing programme to ensure the new system meets the needs of staff and patients.”
We’d urge officials at the Department of Health to consider the problems at Cerner Millennium sites in the round, not as separate sites with separate difficulties. We raise this because we have information that suggests the Department of Health, in its new communications strategy over the NPfIT, may seek to portray problems as isolated single events to avoid feeding any perception that the NPfIT as a programme is in crisis.
Milton Keynes, Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, Weston and other Cerner Millennium sites have similar problems. For example several of the sites have complained that they trained on a system that was different to the one installed. The performance and speed of the system is a problem with some screens locking up. And compatibility with Choose and Book is far from assured.
It’s not as if Milton Keynes General NHS Trust rushed into an NPfIT implementation. It had been due to go live with the Cerner Millennium Release zero product on 28 August last year, then 11 September, then 9 October. It finally went live earlier this year, replacing a 20 year old patient administration system with a basic version of the NPfIT Care Records Service.
Several weeks after the go-live at Milton Keynes the trust’s board minutes said:
“Whilst the system is now working on a day to day basis, this is a very challenging time for the Trust as it continues to understand the operational issues, correct problems and get used to a new system. Mrs Reed [Director of Operations] added that the Trust is providing substantial support to the customer facing aspects of the system and acknowledged that they are not yet perfect and that work is ongoing to improve them. She apologised to those patients who had been affected by this change.
“Dr Butterworth [Chairman Medical Advisory Committee]raised concerns over some operational issues and ability of the super users to resolve all problems.
“Mr Baird [Director of Finance & Deputy Chief Executive] advised that whilst the super – users provide as much support as they can they will not be able to resolve every problem. The Board were also informed the system that they had been trained on was not the same as the system that went live in the Trust.
“It was agreed that Mrs Reed will work with Dr Butterworth, outside the meeting, to understand and address the operational issues.”
Computer Weekly has put a series of questions to Milton Keynes and we hope to receive answers shortly.