Following on from a long line of poorly managed NHS IT contracts, most notably the “National Programme for IT” scrapped in 2011 after costing taxpayers upwards of £11.4 billion, it has emerged that the Royal Berkshire Foundation Trust has lost £18 million on its computer booking system. The trust announced on the May 30th that the Cerner Millennium Electronic Patient Record (EPR) system, on which the trust has spent £28.5 million, was now valued at just £10.5 million – an £18 million write-down in value.
The EPR system, also in use in other UK hospitals, was designed to link patients to available surgeons, beds and treatment appointments as well as allowing staff to retrieve patient details efficiently. Furthermore the Executive Governance Committee of the RBH trust declared “the Trust’s launch [is] considered to be the best implementation of Cerner Millennium yet and that despite staff misgivings, the project [is] progressing well.”
However the system has proved problematic with staff unable to locate patient details, length backlogs of appointments and severe overspend. The £2.5 million budget for the running of the project last year was exceeded to the tune of £4.9 million and is expected to cost another £5.1 million this year.
Problems with the EPR system have been widespread across the country including Barts and the London trust and Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust. A ban was placed by the NHS on installations of the system but this was lifted in January 2012 and subsequently installed in the RBH amongst other hospitals.
Whittington Heath Trust managed to purchase the system in June 2012, around the same time as it was being installed in Reading, for one third of the price – a comparative bargain at £7.1 million.
As we revealed in the Bumper Book of Government Waste this weekend, politicians and bureaucrats squander billions every year. Procurement is one of the worst areas of waste. Trusts must work a lot harder to get a good deal for the taxpayers footing the bill.