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GPs unable to access patient records due to IT system failure

Practices suffered ‘serious’ IT issues yesterday which left them unable to access patient records and appointment lists.

GPs across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent experienced multiple crashes where EMIS could not connect to the server. This was due to an issue with BT, according to EMIS. 

An email sent by EMIS to GPs in the area, seen by Pulse, said: 'We’re aware that many users are experiencing performance and connectivity issues this morning, including "Contacting Server" error messages when attempting to login to or use EMIS Web. Some users are apparently also experiencing Smartcard authentication errors.

'These problem are due to an issue affecting the BT Transition Network and are not linked to any EMIS Health product or service.

'NHS Digital are working with BT to investigate these problems.'

One GP in the area, Dr Jonathan Griffiths, said: ‘Yesterday, I understand from 7:10am there were intermittent problems with the N3 connection. This resulted in multiple crashes where EMIS could not connect to the server.

‘It would last for maybe up to half an hour, then resolve, only to happen again later. I think all was fixed by the time I started afternoon surgery at 2:30pm, but only just before.’

He added: ‘While the issue was occurring, you couldn’t access patient records, so I had to do maybe up to six consultations with no records.’

Another GP, Dr Helen Miles, tweeted: 'Our systems out for hours. No records/results/ability to prescribe.'

NHS Stoke-on-Trent CCG said practices across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent were experiencing issues, with some practices unable to access appointment lists and patient records, including information on medical history, prescriptions, test results and hospital letters.

A statement from the CCG said: ‘GP practices across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are experiencing sporadic but serious issues with access to patient records today.

‘We understand that this may not just be a local problem and NHS Digital are working with BT to investigate these problems.’

The CCG also recommended that patients only attend or make requests from their practices 'where it is absolutely necessary'. 

The statement said: 'Advice is available from NHS 111, 111 online and local pharmacists who are all highly trained professionals.  They will also be able to direct you to the most appropriate local service.'

A BT spokesperson said: 'Yesterday morning we were made aware of an intermittent issue affecting the IT systems of some GP practices in the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent area.

'Our initial investigations suggest that the problem was caused by an anti-virus software update by a third party. As soon as BT became aware of the issue we worked to fix it as soon as possible and we can confirm that the IT systems are now working as normal.'

NHS Digital said they were aware of the issues which were caused by a supplier outside of the NHS, but it said it had now been resolved.

It follows reports in January that 'inadequate internet speeds' have held GPs back from providing efficient care.

Readers' comments (8)

  • We had issues in NW London too

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  • This happens everywhere, outside the big conurbations the infrasture in the UK is pretty dire thanks to 10 years of this lot.

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  • Sussex too.

    I cannot remember a day in the last 3 years when the IT system has actually worked in its entirety. Always something not working, be it Docman, label printers, EMIS, BT router, N3 or whatever its called now, e-referrals, DXS, path results, EPS ...

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  • I have suffered problems too usually with the so called "upgrades". When the system is down, both patients and doctors are happier and we can actually manage proper eye contact without the screen telling us what to do. Less big brother, more safety if there is no IT or data breaches etc. You have to actually physically break in to steal notes. Speaks volumes who wants IT. It is those in ivory towers who does not actually do the coal face job.

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  • Truth finder isn't correct. All the national GP systems have or have had their own user groups - with many members who like working with clinical computers and - perhaps more importantly - have also had provided input (sometimes considerable)into how these systems have been design to work.

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  • And yet again, in Staffordshire, Docman and EMIS are unavailable. That’s more than 100 lapses in our NHS provided IT systems this year alone.

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  • And yesterday and again today EMIS is unavailable intermittently and causing further frustration. This is completely unacceptable and an avoidable source of potential harm to patients.

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  • And again both yesterday and today EMIS is unavailable at random moments through the day, returning for a few seconds then failing to connect again. This is both a clinical risk and an onerous burden for staff

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