Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust declared a major incident last week after it lost access to clinical IT systems and was forced to re-route ambulances to other hospitals.

The trust lost access to the staff info-net, email and a number of clinical systems for five hours last week, due to problems with its IT infrastructure.

In his weekly message to trust staff, chief executive Matthew Kershaw said the event could not have been predicted; and praised the response of the trust’s IT team.

“The impact of this on our ability to run the hospital in a normal way was very significant and on Tuesday afternoon we took the difficult decision to call an internal major incident to enable us to proactively manage and work towards resolving an extremely challenging situation,” he wrote.

Our IT infrastructure is massively complex and a huge amount of time, thought and expense goes in to ensuring that one problem does not mean the system fails, it is too important for that.

“In this case the problem could not be predicted or prevented, it just happened, so we need to work out why to help ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

The trust was forced to re-route ambulances to neighbouring trusts until a normal service was resumed at 8pm last Tuesday night.

“Well beyond Tuesday, the team were literally working 24/7 to get everything running as it should and to isolate the cause; which they think they now have,” he said.

“The team need to reinstate some major elements of the IT infrastructure this week and we will communicate what is happening when. It hopefully goes without saying that we will do our utmost to ensure this has little or no impact on the wider hospital.”

Brighton and Sussex went live with its Alert electronic patient record system in its eye hospital last December, but revised its further deployment to focus on a “core set of functionality”.

It also delayed its deployment in the Princess Royal Hospital, where it is due to go live next month. EHI will be putting questions to the trust about the nature of last week’s problems and how they will impact the trust’s IT developments.