NHS patient record system ‘losing waiting lists’

The multibillion pound patient record system at NHS hospitals is losing waiting lists.

Thousands of patient details have recently been discovered on "lost" waiting lists in London hospitals, prompting the launch of a major investigation. Trusts are now struggling to clear the backlog.

Reports state that the Cerner Millennium patient administration system, being implemented by BT in London NHS trusts, has left early adopter trusts in difficulty coping with waiting lists and looking for alternative hospitals for patients requiring more urgent treatment.

The worst affected was Barts and the London Trust, according to research by the Guardian newspaper and Computer Weekly, and an investigation was launched last autumn after the waiting list details of over 2,000 patients were discovered. But this may be only a “fraction” of the total number of lost cases, the newspaper reported.

The news is another blow for the NHS’ £12.7 billion IT programme, which is running four years late and has lost two of its four main contractors. It is also an embarrassment for BT, which is rolling out the systems and is reportedly set to make a large writedown on the programme, as well as at Barts, which documented system errors last July and forecast a potential shortfall of £3 million after implementing the system.

BT declined to comment, referring queries to Barts and the London. The trust told the Guardian that there were “some weaknesses in our information management and administration systems, which we are addressing through a comprehensive improvement programme”.

A spokesperson at NHS London told Computerworld UK that "the health and safety of patients is of paramount importance”, adding that there “are always challenges with early adopters of complex IT solutions”. The spokesperson did not provide comment on the situation at Barts at the time of writing.

In spite of the problems, the London rollouts continue and Kingston Hospital will be the next trust to implement the system. Kingston is seeking £500,000 in compensation after rollout delays.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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