More than half the £28.5 million spent by the Royal Berkshire Hospital on a "problem-ridden" patient booking system has gone on employing computer consultants to make it work properly.

The Reading Chronicle has revealed that £16.6 million has been spent on "expert IT help" since the Cerner Millennium Electronic Patient Record (EPR) system was implemented.

The £16.6 million has been spent since 2009 after the system was deployed in 2008 and the contract was signed with Cerner.

The consultancy charges were uncovered through a Freedom of Information request made by The Reading Chronicle. The paper says the hospital's board of directors said in May that the EPR "was now valued at just £10 million, leaving hospital bosses nursing an £18m loss".

The system was meant to allow patient details to be "retrieved in seconds", linking them to the availability of surgeons, beds or therapies, but "has forced staff to spend up to 15 minutes navigating through multiple screens to book one routine appointment", and "leading to backlogs on wards and outpatient clinics", reports the paper.

Elizabeth White, head of informatics at the Royal Berks hospital, confirmed to the paper that IT consultants are still working on the EPR.

Cerner is one of the world's largest suppliers of e-record systems. In the UK Cerner is supplied by BT under the National Programme for IT [NPfIT]. It also supplies NHS trusts directly.

Last year, a small Kansas hospital in the US took legal action against Cerner over a failed Cerner system it had deployed.