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NHS 24 abandons £117m IT system due to patient safety

NHS 24 shuts down £117m IT system shortly after go-live, following a two-year delay and mounting costs

NHS 24 has suspended use of its £117m IT system 10 days after going live “on the grounds of patient safety”.

The special Scottish health board, which delivers online and telephone advice services, started using the IT system on 28 October, but the system crashed shortly after.

It attempted another go-live last week, but has now reverted to its legacy system.

Capgemini delivered the applications for the new IT system, while BT supplied the hardware and infrastructure, as part of NHS 24’s Future Programme, which aimed to improve patient service, supported by modernised phone and online technology.

However, in a statement from NHS 24, the health board said it has, “on the grounds of patient safety, withdrawn its Future Programme from service”.

“In spite of a huge amount of planning, system testing and staff training, the performance of the service over the past 10 days since go-live has proved extremely challenging,” it said.

Ian Crichton, chief executive of NHS 24, said work is being carried out to fix the problems and the programme will be relaunched next year.

“Major IT upgrades always bring a degree of challenge, but what makes implementation of our new technology solution unusually difficult is the need to keep patients safe while we get it fully operational,” he said.

“As winter approaches, we expect weekend call volumes to significantly increase and our forecast indicates that service levels at weekends would fall below acceptable tolerances. It is for this reason that we have taken the decision today to roll back.

“While we will maintain the delivery of safe care to patients, we will continue to develop the new system offline and renew preparations to re-introduce the solution in early 2016.

The project was originally due to cost £75.8m and generate savings of £10m over 10 years. However, after a two-year delay, costs have risen by 55%, racking up a total bill of £117.4m, according to the report from the Auditor General for Scotland.

The system was due to go live in June 2013, which was then pushed back to October 2013 before being put on hold indefinitely after it failed to “meet critical patient safety performance measures”, according to the Audit Scotland report.

“This is not a decision that we have taken lightly, given the significant investment to date, but one that will ensure we can continue to deliver vital and safe out-of-hours support to patients when they need it most during the coming winter,” said Crichton.

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