Question time over NHS data

To lose one datacentre may be regarded as a misfortune to lose both looks like carelessness.

To lose one datacentre may be regarded as a misfortune to lose both looks like carelessness.

There will certainly be some earnest conversations between Connecting for Health, which runs the National Programme for IT in the NHS and CSC, which is its prime contractor in the North West and West Midlands.

The debacle at CSC's datacentres which took down patient administration systems at 80 NHS trusts should sound alarm bells, and not just across the NHS.

Richard Granger, director general of NHS IT, will be asking tough questions of CSC about how a system that is being sold to a reluctant NHS community as 100% secure from failure could go down.

He will be relieved that, because his programme is running late, more NHS organisations were not affected. But Granger will also be having nightmares about what might happen if this type of failure recurs when his centralised systems have been loaded with patients' clinical, not just administrative, data.

Granger should be asking how a hot back-up system could fail and why it appears that some of CSC's private sector clients, who were also hit, were back online more quickly than the NHS. Was it that they had paid a premium to get preferential treatment?

Ministers and MPs might like to ask whether Connecting for Health has seen the disaster recovery plans of their main suppliers in action, or have they contented themselves with looking at paper documentation of procedures?

More fundamentally, they might want to question whether Connecting for Health's strategy of holding centralised records is a risk worth taking. It is bad enough to lose systems in one hospital, it is far worse to lose them for one fifth of the NHS organisations in England.

Read article: NHS trusts left stranded after CSC datacentre crash

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