• ITFF approved loan in June 2017
  • Trust may now look at other sources of funding
  • Delay has held up benefits of EPR

An acute trust has been forced to look for new funding to pay for its electronic patient record system after the Department of Health and Social Care has still not signed off a loan after more than 15 months.

Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust has warned it cannot deliver the full safety benefits of its EPR without the £4.6m loan.

Its application for the loan to enable a paper light system and electronic prescribing was approved by the Independent Trust Financing Facility in June 2017. The ITFF advises the health and social care secretary on financial assistance for trusts but loans it supports have to be signed off by the DHSC.

The ITFF’s minutes show the trust was judged to be able to “easily service” its existing debt, and the loan would enable it to integrate more clinical data such as from bedside medical devices and use alerting systems for patients with suspected sepsis or acute kidney injury.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has advocated the use of IT in the NHS and one of his first speeches after his appointment included commitments to electronic prescribing.

In a report to August’s Surrey and Sussex board, chief finance officer Paul Simpson said: “The trust has repeatedly raised the governance problems from the lack of a decision (there is a safety benefit that cannot be delivered without EPR Digitise and the lack of a decision makes trust remedial action harder) including at senior level.”

Mr Simpson, who is also deputy chief executive, told HSJ: “We have implemented a state of the art EPR system at Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust.

“The next phase is called EPR Digitise which includes an electronic prescribing and medicine administrator system and in addition we will create a paper light environment across the trust.

“The total loan was £4.6m and the loan secured to pay for this has been withheld because of the national capital position. Capital is now being made available through different routes and should the loan continue to be withheld, funding will be sought through those routes.”

The trust may apply for some of the money it needs through the national funding process for electronic prescribing and medicines administration systems – but this could mean money would not be available until the next financial year even if it is successful.

The DHSC refused to comment.