Urgent action is needed to address NHS computer failings which are causing harm to patients, BBC has reported, citing the Health Services Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB), the country’s patient safety watchdog.

The report said the watchdog has evidence of patient deaths due to IT system errors. The government called the reports “concerning” and said it would work with NHS England to take necessary action to protect patients, the BBC reported.

An HSSIB blog by the agency’s senior safety investigator, published on Tuesday, noted that safety issues associated with electronic patient record (EPR) systems had been highlighted among the evidence gathered during safety investigations over the past six years.

“Given the recent news that the national technology budget will be cut by more than £300 million, and EPR budgets will likely be at risk, it is important that there remains a focus on how resources can best be focused on EPR systems, to improve patient safety,” the blog said, adding that interoperability problems was one key issue that came up.  In addition, the HSSIB blog said, “a key finding in a number of our investigations was that EPR systems had not undergone usability testing.”

Newcastle Hospitals said earlier this year that it was reviewing some 24,000 letters in its electronic patient record (EPR) system that were apparently never sent to GPs, while a week later Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust admitted that it was reviewing a similar number of documents from its EPR that had never been sent.

The HSSIB says IT failures are among the most serious issues facing hospitals in England.

“We have seen evidence of patient deaths as a result of IT systems not working,” the BBC quoted interim head, Dr Rosie Benneyworth as saying.

Benneyworth cited the example of a patient who was found unresponsive and then wrongly identified by healthcare staff as not wishing to be resuscitated.

Staff were unable to access information on the patient quickly through their IT system, which would have shown a mistake had been made, said the watchdog.

Benneyworth also told the BBC that computer failings were found in virtually every HSSIB investigation. She described poorly set up and badly used software, with some systems incompatible with others.