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Network failure crashed frontline services at London hospital

Network problem at Hillingdon hospital meant clinical staff could not access information on computer systems

Hillingdon hospital was hit by a major network failure that prevented medical staff, including those in accident & emergency (A&E), from accessing the information they needed to treat patients.

Late last month emergencies had to be diverted to other hospitals and patients were taking up much needed bed space for longer than needed, due to delays caused by staff waiting for information to come through IT systems.

“On 22 May [Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust] experienced an issue with its IT networking infrastructure, which affected the connectivity and reliability of various clinical systems. As a result, A&E attendances were diverted to other nearby hospitals for a short period of time while the issue was rectified and services were restored to normal,” said a statement from the hospital.

Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust includes Hillingdon and Mount Vernon hospitals. Hillingdon hospital serves Heathrow Airport and would be vital in the event of an accident there.

Without the manual efforts of staff, during the network problems, services would have been in chaos, according to one patient who was rushed into the hospital with an acute problem.

The patient, who wished to remain anonymous, said during his time in the hospital, nurses and doctors were using manual processes because systems were down. For example doctors were forced to look at scans in the locations they were done because they could not be sent.

But the patient praised staff for their efforts. "First let me say the Hillingdon medical were exemplary,” he said. “Over the three days that I was in the hospital, the lack of IT systems clearly showed how critical these services are - nurses and doctors having to ask for the information multiple times, x-rays (usually digitally stored) unavailable, blood test results being repeated due to poor handwriting on reference numbers.”

He added that people were staying in the hospital longer than necessary due to the problems. “Half the ward was capable of being released but were forced to stay another day due to an inability to pull the paperwork together, getting the take-home drugs from the dispensary, etc. How many people in need suffered unnecessary on A&E trolleys while fit people were occupying acute ward beds?"

A nearby NHS trust in London, Central and North West London (CNWL) NHS Foundation Trust, has also experienced problems with its IT systems recently that delayed the completion of a major IT upgrade.

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