A crucial upgrade to digital patient records in London’s mental health trusts has been halted for two weeks.

NHS London and supplier BT stopped the upgrade after 12 NHS trusts experienced major reliability issues with the RiO system from software firm CSE Healthcare.

The problem was so severe in the West London Mental Health Trust that staff had to resort to pen and paper because key parts of the system were not working at all. Board papers at the trust identified “failures of system function including failure of the tool used to merge [trust] users with the National Spine”. The issues have “largely been remedied by BT”, it said.

Other trusts said they found the system responded very slowly and did not save data, the E-Health Insider website reported.

RiO is the equivalent patient administration system of iSoft Lorenzo and Cerner Millennium, which are being rolled out to other trusts, for mental healthcare. It is more basic because of the lower numbers of patients involved.

The new upgrade is the first version in mental health trusts to provide smartcard access, and the first to connect to the spine.

All of the twelve trusts that have upgraded to version 5.1 of the system are experiencing problems, it was reported.

Trusts affected are Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Bexley, Camden, City and Hackney Teaching, Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Kingston, Southwark, Waltham Forrest, Camden and Islington and West London Mental Health. The other 19 trusts in London have not yet made the upgrade.

The problems began in April, and continued into this month. A patch was issued by BT on 22 April, and is now being evaluated by trusts.

An NHS London spokesperson told CIO UK sister title Computerworld UK that the problems “are not untypical with an upgrade of this type.” But trusts have seen “substantial improvement” since BT and the NHS began tackling the issues, the spokesperson said.

“Our priority is ensuring that performance is not exacerbated by introducing new trusts to the system and, in consultation with trusts, we have made the decision to take a two-week pause in the programme of upgrading trusts from RiO 4.7 to RiO 5.1.”

The problems were “intermittent”, BT said. “The system is available but at certain times of the day performance is degraded.” Software supplier CSE Healthcare did not immediately comment.

Last month BT, which is running patient record rollouts in London and some southern trusts, won a contract for another 25 southern mental health trusts.

BT has also experienced severe problems with rollouts in non-mental healthcare trusts. Last week it wrote off £1.6 billion on contracts in its IT services division, a writedown said to be largely attributable to problems in its NHS rollouts. BT did not elaborate.