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NHS trust goes 100% over IT budget in patient records rollout cockup

A £1m here, a £1m there ... it adds up after a while

North Bristol NHS trust has confirmed it has overspent on its IT budget by almost 100 per cent in recent months as a consequence of the rollout of its Cerner electronic patient record (EPR) system.

The trust has spent £4.5m implementing the Cerner system to date, the majority of which was spent during this January and February.

Over the 11 months to February, the organisation noted a £2.33m overspend on its IT budget of £5.36m, all of which was a result of the Cerner rollout, a spokeswoman for the trust said.

The budget overrun was due to the provision of extra "floor walkers" to help hospital staff with the new system and additional technical resources, according to the trust. The resources were needed to support the March relaunch of Cerner intended to fix the problems that the trust's outpatient clinics had experienced with the system.

Additional costs for hardware also contributed to the budget overrun, the board said.

"The forecast spend on the project is £5.1m which represents a considerable overspend on the project as a result of the problems encountered," the trust's board papers added.

Ruth Brunt, chief executive at North Bristol, said: "We put in place extra staff to rectify issues with data migration of clinic lists and ensure that our new system could be fully operational as quickly as possible in all areas."

The trust began implementation of the Cerner system on 8 December 2011, starting with emergency and intensive care wards, before moving to community hospital wards. The work was completed at the end of February when all clinics went live.

"The implementation went as planned in our emergency department, in our two minor injury units and 60 plus ward areas, but we experienced significant problems in outpatients, and some issues in theatres," Brunt added.

In March 2012 the trust said the EPR roll out had led to a series of clinical incidents. In the first few weeks after its implementation, the trust cited Cerner as the causal factor in 16 clinical incidents, including problems such lack of patient notes and incorrect clinic lists.

Brunt said that problems with the Cerner rollout have been overcome and that the EPR system is currently working successfully.

By the time the trust's new £430m hospital at Southmead is completed in April 2014, the trust intends that it will be only using electronic patient information.

"The trust is now working to consolidate and optimise the system across the organisation and working towards getting the benefits we envisaged when we embarked on this journey, and prepare for the move to the new hospital in 2014," Brunt said.

An independent review into the issues surrounding the implementation of the EPR system has been commissioned by the trust.

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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