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IT failure caused weekend chaos at Sussex hospitals

The critical incident at University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, caused by IT issues on Sunday night, has now been resolved

University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust declared a critical incident on Sunday night (15 January), after several of its hospitals were severely affected by problems with their IT and phone systems.

The issues meant staff were unable to use the trust’s IT systems, as well as cutting off communication. The trust was therefore unable to accept patients, forcing ambulances to divert to other hospitals, while patients were urged not to attend its accident and emergency departments.

A critical incident was declared at both Royal Sussex County and Princess Royal hospitals, the two hospitals worst affected. Other hospitals in the trust, such as Worthing Hospital and St Richard’s Hospital, were also hit by the IT failure.

In an update on its website at 10pm on Sunday, the trust said: “Declaring a critical incident allows staff to focus on the needs of their patients, and for the trust to seek support from local partners.

“The disruption is widespread, and frontline teams are affected. Bringing IT systems back to normal is a priority.”

The issues also affected the phone lines, meaning anyone trying to call the hospital was unable to do so.

The incident, which was caused by a power outage at one of the hospitals, meant staff worked overnight into Monday to resolve the problem.

In an update this morning (15 January), the trust said it was “no longer in critical incident, after good progress was made overnight in restoring IT systems”.

Despite the IT systems and phone systems now being up and running, the trust has called on patients to consider alternatives to A&E, apart from in life-saving emergencies, and to use NHS 111 online or by phone to receive advice and direction to the most appropriate service.  

While patients are now able to attend the trust’s A&E departments, they are urged to “be aware that all teams are under additional pressure after the disruption over the weekend”.

The trust is one of the newest hospital trusts in the NHS, formed in 2021 through a merger of the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

It runs five main hospital sites, covering 1.8 million people in Sussex, with a total of 1,767 beds.

Most of the trust’s hospitals use an electronic patient record system (EPR) and patient administration system (PAS) from System C. In 2021, soon after the merger, it also partnered with the supplier to implement the CareFlow Connect platform, aiming to coordinate patient care across the different hospitals.

The platform is used to manage paperless referrals and conduct team meetings regardless of location, and allows patient information to flow between the hospitals.

Together with five other trusts in the region, University Hospitals Sussex also signed up to implement a cloud-based picture, archiving and communications system (PACS) from Sectra.

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