NHS trust issues apology after IT error cancels 600 appointments

Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford has issued another apology to staff, this time because an error involving a pioneering IT system led to more than 600 ­outpatient appoint­­ments being wrongly cancelled.

Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford has issued another apology to staff, this time because an error involving a pioneering IT system led to more than 600 ­outpatient appoint­­ments being wrongly cancelled.

The trust said corrective action was taken immediately by suppliers Fujitsu and Cerner to restore the appointments, and that patients were unaware of the difficulties.

But a leaked memo asked staff to go through a series of procedures to identify patients whose appointments had been cancelled incorrectly by the system and rebook them into clinics.

The leaked memo, issued last Monday, said, “Apologies for the additional work and inconvenience this has caused. We are working closely with Fujitsu and Cerner to address the problems.”

It said the error caused some appointments to be cancelled “at random” and was not specific to any one clinic. Some of the cancelled appointments were on the day the memo was issued. 

The error affected Nuffield’s implementation of the Care Records Service, a core part of the national programme for IT in the NHS. Connecting for Health, the government agency that runs the programme, hopes to roll out the Care Records Service across England to give 50 million people an electronic patient record.

Nuffield was the first hospital in Southern England to go live with the NPfIT’s electronic patient record system. Its problems are being closely watched by other NHS trusts as some are planning more complex installations as part of the NPfIT.

Nuffield apologised to staff on 10 April after running into a series of difficulties over the implementation of a Care Records Service in December 2005. The problems include ­cancelled and delayed operations. The trust has also filed a report on the implementation with the National Patient Safety Agency, after concern that some patients might have been “lost in the system”.

The latest leaked memo was headed “Important Care Records Service Error on Clinic Bookings”.

In a statement to Computer Weekly, the trust said the error occurred on Friday 18 April when a routine, automated task was run through Nuffield’s Care Records System. “It had an unexpected impact, in that 610 outpatient ­appointments were administratively cancelled,” it said. 

The memo said that although the cause of the problem had been identified and rectified, work was ongoing to identify all patients affected.

Fujitsu is Connecting for Health’s local service provider for southern England, and US-based Cerner is its main software subcontractor.

Nuffield’s statement said, “All patients have continued to be seen in-clinic as planned with no delays. Corrective steps have been taken by the supplier to keep the problem from occurring again.

“Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre continues to run its operations on the Care Records System safely and in a timely way.”
 

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