PATIENTS are still facing lengthy delays under a new £15.7m computerised record system and hospital bosses are unable to say when it will be operating properly.

Hospital chiefs rolled out the new Electronic Patient Record (EPR) system at the John Radcliffe, Churchill and Horton hospitals in early December. At the time, patients reported a host of problems including ambulances queuing outside accident and emergency at the John Radcliffe at the weekend as staff struggled to book patients in.

Patients also had appointments overrun by hours, leading to Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) Trust suspending its parking charges for three days.

But it has emerged there are still significant problems with patients trying to contact the Patient Contact Centre, a system that is used to book appointments. Some patients have reported waiting almost an hour on the phone for their calls to be answered and have claimed staff have told them the delays are because they are struggling with the system.

Last night the OUH admitted there had been some disruption, which had been made worse by staff sickness, but added that the overhaul would mean long-term benefits for patients.

A spokesman said: “There has been a level of disruption which was anticipated following the implementation of the Electronic Patient Record system and we would like to apologise to any patients who have had trouble booking an appointment.

“This changeover to a comprehensive digital patient record to replace paper patient records is one of the largest operational changes that the trust has undertaken for a considerable time.

“With a project of this scale, we expected there to be a period of time while staff become fully familiar with the system.

“During this period, some areas of the trust have also experienced staff sickness.

“Our staff are working extremely hard to minimise the impact on patients.”

The £15.7m database is designed to contain patient records including medical history, details of past operations and appointments on one system.

Its introduction was delayed twice in November as the trust tried to fully prepare and train staff.

Pensioner John Woodcock said it took a week of calling the contact centre to book an appointment for an important stomach examination.

The contact centre gives patients the option of leaving a message for staff to call back, or to join a phone queue.

The 75-year-old from Kidlington said: “I managed to get an appointment in the end by staying on the phone but it took half an hour almost.

“I am not knocking the NHS. I think it’s fantastic.

“I just didn’t think that was on.”

An OUH spokesman said it was not known when the system would be running without delays but it could take up to three months.

* Have you experienced problems with the hospitals’ new record system? Call health reporter Amanda Williams on 01865 425426.