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Hospital e-mail waiting lists can take weeks

Even the largest, most innovative NHS hospitals can take weeks just to perform a simple e-mail retrieval process, it emerged yesterday, as the University Hospital Birmingham (UHB) announced an implementation of an enterprise archiving system.

Even the largest, most innovative NHS hospitals can take weeks just to perform a simple e-mail retrieval process, it emerged yesterday, as the University Hospital Birmingham (UHB) announced an implementation of an enterprise archiving system.

The archiving system - EAS - was installed by Autonomy Zantaz in response to the growing e-mail volumes received by the hospital. Stephen Chilton, deputy director of ICT, admitted that there are no specific regulations governing the need for e-mail storage, and that access to old e-mails could take weeks. He said the number of e-mails sent and received has doubled every year since 1999, reaching 4 million in 2007. As it became an increasingly critical communications link between doctors, nurses and consultants, the need for management became critical, said Chilton.

"There are no specific regulations governing the retention of email messages in NHS organisations," he said, "but wider regulations such as the Data Protection Act, Investigatory Powers Act, Telecommunications Regulations and Freedom of Information Act [were influential]. Our performance stats have been enhanced by the system."

UHB employs more than 6,500 people and is one of the UK's largest National Health Service (NHS) Trusts.

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