The IT system introduced to manage patient information at the Royal Free Hospital has prevented investment in equipment and caused staff “so much heartache”, the hospital’s boss has admitted.

Andrew Way, chief executive of the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Hospital Trust, suggested last week that he had been misled over the system, which has been plagued with problems since its introduction in June last year.

The Cerner Millennium system was introduced to replace paper patient records and information about appointments with an electronic system.

But after it went live staff encountered a series of problems including system crashes, delays booking patient appointments and data missing in records.

Mr Way told the BBC: “I think it is very disappointing that the work we had to do as a trust has caused our staff so much heartache and hard work.

“Many of the medical staff are incredibly disappointed with what we have got.

“I have personally apologised for the decision to implement the system before we were really clear about what we were going to receive. I had been led to believe it would all work.”

In November the trust reported a half-yearly budget deficit of £7.7 million, almost all of which was put down to the cost of dealing with problems created by Cerner.

Mr Way said he had had “some of the toughest days” of his career in the NHS due to the system, which has drained resources away from healthcare equipment.

The Royal Free was the first in London to go live with the system, created by the US IT firm Cerner and supplied by BT, and the Department of Health intends to expand it across the UK.

However, last October the London Strategic Health Authority, which manages the NHS in London, put the brakes on plans to roll out the system across the capital until the problems at the Royal Free have been resolved.

But a Department of Health spokesperson said that patients and clinicans are beginning to see the benefits the system can bring to patient care.

He added: "We are learning lessons from the deployment at the Royal Free of Cerner Millennium, which now has an effective patient record system, and we expect these lessons to help us improve further deployments.”

Mr Way insisted the trust has to take the decision to modernise its management of patient information.

He said: “Healthcare in the 21st Century is enabled and supported by modern technology and at the moment we're writing almost everything we do down on paper.

“That can't be the right way to work in the future.”