The largest trust in the country has suffered a huge IT failure affecting its pathology and imaging systems and other critical clinical systems leading to disrupted services and cancelled appointments
On Tuesday, Barts Health NHS Trust was in its sixth day of problems with cancelled elective operations, outpatient appointment delays and a backlog of blood tests to work through.
The trust offered reassurance that its archive of diagnostic images had not been lost, though access to them remained severely disrupted.
The trust released a statement on Tuesday that said a “major computer equipment failure” happened on 20 April.
“Unfortunately, it has been necessary to cancel a very small number of elective operations that were reliant on images, and some patients attending outpatients are experiencing delays. Clinical teams have completed a patient-by-patient review to ensure that the appropriate course of action is taken for each of them, endeavouring to keep the disruption to an absolute minimum.”
The situation was described as “complex”, with “a number of applications have been affected to varying degrees, such as chemotherapy prescribing and digital dictation systems”.
The trust said that pathology has improved since Thursday with all orders now being received electronically, but imaging remains problematic.
“The biggest challenge we face is with a system which supplies x-rays and other images including CT and MRI scans”, the statement said.
“We have not lost our historic archive of images, but we have been unable to access them so far; while new images cannot be transmitted electronically staff are viewing them on the machines that take the pictures.”
Earlier a trust spokeswoman confirmed to Digital Health News that images can only be seen on the machine they are taken on.
The trust apologised to those affected, and it had tried and tested contingency plans in place.
HSJ first reported that a staff e-mail said the trust had to manually process blood tests and x-rays, and porters had been hand-delivering test results to clinicians at the London hospitals.
The trust e-mail, sent on Sunday, said the situation will not be resolved for a few days.
The impact of a pathology IT crash was vividly demonstrated in September last year, when a hardware failure at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust led to weeks of disruption with 143 non-urgent procedures postponed and disrupted regional blood services.
An independent review blamed the protracted crash on human error and ageing infrastructure.
According to Digital Health Intelligence, Barts runs CliniSys’ WinPath for its pathology system.
Barts serves about 2.5 million people living in East London.