NY death investigated for links to London Ambulance IT crash

Image: London Ambulance Service NHS Trust has confirmed a investigation will be launched into patient death that occurred during at IT outage on the morning of New Year's Day.


The London Ambulance Service has confirm a patient died during the IT outage on New Year’s Day.

An external investigation was launched following computer problems that reduced the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust to logging emergency calls with pen and paper between 12:30am and 5:15am on 1 January.

The trust's operations director, Paul Woodrow, said in a statement on 6 January that as part of this investigation, “we have identified a patient who sadly died during the time of the computer issues where we would like to look more closely at whether this was potentially a contributory factor”.

A separate investigation will be held to establish if technical problems played a part in this patient’s death.

Woodrow said, “it is too early to say what the cause of this patient’s death was but we will report on the findings when the investigation is complete”.

He added that the system is now stable. The trust uses CommandPoint call handling software and an Oracle database.

The trust is the busiest emergency ambulance service in the UK, and the IT error fell on one of the busiest nights of the year.

During the 2017 New Year's revelries, 162 patients were treated in the central London event area by the ambulance service and St John Ambulance, with most suffering alcohol related illnesses.

In a statement on 1 January, Peter McKenna, deputy director of operations, said that his staff had been trained to work without a computer system, and they continued “to prioritise our response to patients with life-threatening conditions, using the same triage system as usual”.

It is not the first time an IT problem has been linked to patient deaths for the trust.

In 1992, faults in a newly deployed computer aided dispatch software reportedly lead to delays of up to 11 hours and were linked to 30 deaths.

The London trust has previous form of resorting to paper during peak demand.

On Christmas Day in 2013, the trust call management system went down for five hours, forcing them to record emergency calls on paper.

The trust is the only London wide NHS trust covering 620 square miles, and employs about 5000 staff.

The Care Quality Commission rated the trust “inadequate” in its last report in November 2015, with problems including insufficient paramedic staff and a reported culture of bullying and harassment in parts of the trust.
 

Last updated: 9 January 2017 11:58

Laura Stevens

9 January 2017