TECHNOLOGY: A hospital trust has put plans to develop an electronic patient record system on hold because of its “unforeseen” financial challenge, HSJ has learnt.

A memo sent by directors at East Cheshire Trust, seen by HSJ, has said the trust board decided work on the system could be “safely deferred or halted” while the trust focused on tackling its financial deficit, which is forecast to be at least £13.5m by the end of 2015-16.

The trust is understood to have got as far as identifying a preferred supplier for the EPR before the project was stopped.

The government has said it expects the NHS to be “paperless” by 2020.

In the memo signed by East Cheshire Trust’s director of finance, Mark Ogden, chief information officer Dr Mark Nicol and head of informatics Alison Cadiou said the original ambition for the EPR was to address “the lack of one patient, one record due to differing systems” across the trust and the need to meet national targets on a paperless NHS.

They said the project was also designed to help integrate care an improve finances through the trust’s work with neighbouring trusts on specialist services.

The memo said: “After detailed work, we did identify a preferred supplier with a strong bid to provide our EPR system. However, due to unforeseen challenges to the trust’s financial position, the board rightly wanted to reassess whether this solution still meets our needs given the changes highlighted above and can be safely deferred or halted while we concentrate on rectifying our financial position.

“As a result, it has been decided that the EPR project should be put on hold while we address our financial challenges and reassess our needs. We are conscious that many colleagues have contributed considerable time and effort towards the project so far. Please be assured that this work was not in vain and will play a vital role in the future selection of our EPR system.”

A spokesman for the trust said: “The trust is fully aware of current timescales for the implementation of digital patient records.

“Given a number of significant developments locally and nationally, the board agreed the project could be placed on hold pending a reassessment of our requirements and position, without jeopardising our ability to meet relevant timescales.”