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Fresh blow to faith in care records

Confidence in Connecting for Health's development of care records has fallen to a new low with hospital staff claiming that a patient administration system that will form part of the service is 'not fit for purpose'.

This comes on top of existing concerns about patient confidentiality and the robustness of the national spine.

Management at Milton Keynes General Hospital, one of the five trusts at which the Millennium system has been rolled out, were sent a letter from 79 hospital doctors and administrative staff reporting major problems.

The Millennium system is a patient administration system that includes a module allowing clinicians to record medical problems and procedures directly onto the electronic patient record.

Staff reported that the system was 'clunky', and that patient notes were lost or impossible to access. 'We cannot foresee the system working adequately in a clinical context,' the letter said.

'It should not be installed in any further hospitals. If it is not already too late, there is a strong argument for withdrawing the care records service system from this hospital.'

Dr Paul Cundy, GPC IT subcommittee chair, said the faults reported in Milton Keynes raised serious questions about the NHS care records service project as a whole.

'It's simply astonishing that systems being deployed by Connecting for Health can be regarded by any group of clinicians as not fit for purpose,'

he said.

'It does nothing to inspire confidence in their competence.'

A spokesperson for Connecting for Health denied that the problems with Millennium would have a larger impact on the care records service, but admitted there had been 'unacceptable problems' that required 'immediate attention'.

'Ensuring this is resolved and normal service is resumed is a top priority,' she said.

A spokesperson for Fujitsu, who installed the system in Milton Keynes, said it was aware of 16 issues with the new system, including case note tracking, re-scheduling of outpatients and missing data fields.

'It is normal for new IT systems to have a bedding down period where issues are dealt with before it becomes a part of everyday working life,' he said.

'However, it is clear in this case there have been some high impact problems and we regret any inconvenience that this

has caused to patients and

clinicians.'

The other trusts at which Millennium has been rolled out are Nuffield Orthopaedic, Winchester, Buckinghamshire and Weston.

Staff at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre filed a serious untoward incident after the system went live in December 2005, amid reports of delayed treatments and lost patient records.

snowottny@cmpmedica.com

Key criticisms made in the letter

• 'From our early experience of the new care records service computer system [it] is not fit

for purpose.'

• 'The software is so clunky, awkward and unaccommodating that we cannot foresee the

system working adequately

in a clinical context.'

• Glitches have been 'unacceptable and particularly bad in outpatient clinics.'

• 'If it is not already too late, there is a strong argument for withdrawing the care records system from this hospital.'

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