A major outage on NHS Spine has caused problems across the NHS and affected users are unable to access any Spine services.

The problems, which EHI understands began yesterday, are related to errors with smartcard authentication.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre told customers in an update this morning that it is “continuing to report a ‘Severity 1’ issue with the Spine services.”

A spokesperson from the HSCIC told EHI that it has “identified an issue with smartcard authentication which may have caused difficulties for some users in accessing Spine services both yesterday and this morning.”

“BT deployed an overnight fix but this has not fully resolved the issue, although service has improved,” said the spokesperson.

“HSCIC is continuing to monitor the system and is working closely with BT and both local and national system suppliers to resolve any outstanding issues. 

“Any users who continue to experience problems should initially restart their machine to ensure that they are being connected to the correct datacentre.  If this does not resolve the problem they should report this using their normal service support route.”

EHI understands that the issues have affected the majority of users of the electronic prescription service, which allows practices in England to produce prescriptions electronically.

One third of GPs and nearly all pharmacies are live with the Electronic Prescription Service Release 2.

All prescriptions are sent to pharmacies through the Spine and the recent go-live of the Spine replacement, Spine 2, originally caused an issue in relation to the migration of specific prescription data.

This impacted prescriptions sent through EPS R2 that had been downloaded by a nominated site and then returned to the Spine for not being dispensed or claimed.

Pharmacies then found that thee prescriptions re-appeared in their system. However, the issue was solved approximately two weeks after the go-live.

The HSCIC says it is working to fix the issues as soon as possible, but has at the time of writing, not published any updates on its website.

"We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused and are working hard to restore full service as quickly as possible,” said the HSCIC spokesperson.

Update 20 October 2014: The HSCIC told EHI this morning that the smartcard authentication issues were resolved on Friday evening and that the service has since been stable.

"Users can now access the system as normal and we apologise to users for any inconvenience," said the HSCIC spokesperson.