Users of the NHS broadband network across England were left unable to access the internet for about two hours on Tuesday due to a problem with the internet gateway. The failure left NHS users unable to access the web-based version of Choose and Book or web-based clinical knowledge sources.

The fault is believed to have affected N3 and N2 – the predecessor to the N3 network – users across England although service provider BT told EHI Primary Care that it was not possible to accurately identify how many people were affected as the problem was intermittent.

A spokesperson added: “It was down for about two hours.” GP practices and hospitals across the country reported lack of access to the internet and those using web-based Choose and Book were also unable to access the e-booking application.

An alert issued by NHS Connecting for Health on Tuesday morning told NHS staff that BT were reporting issues with their N3 and N2 internet gateway. It added: “Users connected via the N3 and N2 networks are not able to access the

internet. This may also impact other services. BT N3 are urgently working to restore service.”

A statement issued by BT says that there were service problems affecting some NHS customers on December 5th which were quickly resolved. It adds: “NHS users had problems accessing the internet because of a fault on BT’s internet gateway (the part of the network that links to the internet). We apologise for any inconvenience caused and are looking into the precise cause of the problem. Throughout this period traffic routed entirely over the N3SP network continued to run normally.”

N3 is the new national broadband network for the NHS, delivered by BT as part of £530 million contract awarded in February 2004. The virtual private network is designed to provide NSH staff with secure and reliable access to online knowledge resources and clinical applications.

The embarrassing failure came in the same week that BT announced its N3 national service team had achieved the international ISO 20000 standard for effective IT service management.