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IT meltdown forces Sandwell hospital appointments to be cancelled

By Richard Guttridge | Sandwell | Health | Published:

Nearly 150 hospital appointments were cancelled when IT systems went down at a Black Country hospital trust.

Sandwell Hospital

Sandwell Hospital was plunged into chaos on two days last week, forcing 147 medical appointments to be cancelled at short notice.

The IT failure, which was blamed on an ‘unplanned internal update’ and resulted in staff having to revert to paper-based methods to order tests and results, crippled the trust, which also runs Birmingham City Hospital, and meant many patients had to be turned away.

Bosses apologised for the issues which put computer systems out of action.

Rachel Barlow, chief operating officer at the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, said: “An unplanned IT internal update caused a number of our IT systems to fail, and meant we had to revert to business continuity plans including paper-based ordering of tests and results.

“This slowed our service significantly over two days last week, and to ensure safe care for all patients unfortunately we had to cancel 147 appointments at short notice.

“These patients have all been rebooked and we apologise to every patient who was affected.”

Trust chief executive Toby Lewis pledged to have all the affected patients seen during June.

A planned introduction of a new electronic patient records system, called Unity, designed to free up more time for doctors, has been put on hold following last week’s failure, Mr Lewis said.

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Unity has been hailed by health chiefs, who believe it will improve performance for both staff and patients.

Problems with IT systems have been a cause of frustration for trust bosses over recent months.

Mr Lewis said in a report to board members: “More than 100 patients had their care cancelled or re-organised with our latest IT infrastructure issues in month.

“The board will recognise that this makes it impossible to achieve the Unity go-live date of August if we are to credibly have a period of stability before deployment.

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“A complete IT change freeze is in operation. We will make sure that during June all cancelled patients are seen.”

It comes as latest figures showed the trust was still some way from meeting national targets on A&E waiting times.

In April, 84 per cent of patients were seen within four hours, below the 95 per cent NHS target.

The Sandwell trust had targeted reaching the 95 per cent target this year.

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Chief Reporter - @RichG_star

Chief Reporter for the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton.

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