University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust has launched an investigation into a major IT failure that led to its A&E department being closed to all blue light traffic and more than 50% of its operations being cancelled.

The trust experienced a major trust wide network problem on 22 February. This resulted in PCs being unable to access most of its system, including the trust’s CareCast patient administration system and data repository.

According to a report to the board of directors, the ICT team working with external IT experts was forced to systematically disable individual sections of the trust network, including connection to the primary data centre, in order to isolate the faulty component.

The board paper adds: “As designed, some systems automatically switched over to the backup systems located in our disaster recovery centre. However, this made no difference to their availability as PCs were still unable to gain access as a result of the severe network performance issue.”

A spokesperson for the trust told eHealth Insider that the problem, which lasted 24 hours, was caused by a faulty piece of equipment in the trust’s IT network, causing a data storm over network.

Although the report states that the impact of the IT failure on hospital services was “extensive” the spokesperson said that at no stage was patient safety compromised.

He added: “In agreement with the London Ambulance Service, blue light patients were diverted to other hospitals for about 10 hours throughout the day. However our emergency department remained open to walk-in attendances.”

The trust said that the faulty equipment has been replaced by Logica, the trust’s IT Service partner, which maintains the data network.

However, the spokesperson added that a full investigation had been launched into the network design and components, to verify if there are any design issues to be addressed, and to establish if it has any remaining equipment of the same age and configuration.

In addition an external lead investigator has been appointed from RSM Tenon to take this forward and in order to identify lessons for the future.