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The waiting game

Practice forced to declare ‘serious incident’ following IT failure

A GP practice in Peterborough was forced to declare a serious incident due to its internet connection failing, leaving GPs without access to medical records.

Last Tuesday (31 December), the IT system at Nene Valley Medical Practice in Clayton, Peterborough, failed meaning patients could not be booked into the system as wi-fi was required to access medical records.

The local CCG confirmed the IT system was down ‘temporarily’ and patients were advised to contact NHS 111 with urgent concerns instead.

Nene Valley Medical Practice is a branch surgery of Octagon Medical Practice, which has a combined list size of almost 85,000 patients across 18 branches in Peterborough.

The practice escalated its concerns to NHS Digital's help desk as a serious incident, according to Alan Ball, managing partner of Octagon Medical Practice.

Local commissioners NHS Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG said the practice was back online later that day.

However, Mr Ball added that four of the practice's eight GPs have also been off sick with flu symptoms, which has continued to affect the surgery's ability to see patients.

A spokesperson from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG said: ‘The IT system at Nene Valley Surgery was temporarily down Tuesday morning but was up and running again by the afternoon.

‘During this time patients with urgent medical concerns were advised to contact NHS 111. The surgery remained open all day.’

Mr Ball, from Octagon Medical Practice, told Peterborough Today: ‘This morning (31 December) I was advised by the practice lead at Nene that the internet service was down. This impacts our ability to book patients in as we need wi-fi to access records. NHS Digital help desk have been advised and it has been escalated as a serious incident and is being worked on.

‘The practice continues to work on the doctor first model which ensures all patients who call in are spoken to on the day and if required seen in practice.’

He added: ‘This week we have had four of our GP’s off sick with flu symptoms. This has obviously impacted on the ability to see patients.’

Earlier last year, GPs in Staffordshire and Stock-on-Trent suffered multiple IT issues where EMIS could not connect to the server, also leaving them unable to access practice records and appointment lists.

In April, health secretary Matt Hancock announced plans to upgrade every GP practice with fibre-optic broadband.

Readers' comments (8)

  • Hardly news. These sort of IT failures are daily events. Recently waited 2 days for BT to replace our router, during which time everything was out except for a couple of ipads

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  • Same here daily occurrence in the new IT based nhs in the golden old days paper didn’t crash but it wasn’t as safe.

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  • Dear All,
    May I enquire as to how some of the doctors who work at this practice, who had "flu", how it was that their physiological interactions with their personal pathogens, viruses or otherwise, were interlinked with the physical network connections of the practice? As suggested in the article?
    If I'm absent tomorrow from my surgery due to a snotty nose will my practice's NHS broadband connection be down-regulated? If so how do they know? Is there a link between my WBC and the physical interface?
    Regards
    Paul C

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  • I was spared a large damages bill when sued by a patient, largely thanks to paper notes with an entry that would never have been put on an electronic record. These days some sort of back up is essential; having a cloud backup alone is not enough - practices need a local system as well. IT is wonderful until it fails, as any bank knows...

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  • What we need is MORE IT. Hancock's blind faith in IT will sort it. When IT is down, doctors and patients are so happy as there can finally be some kind of eye contact rather than screen staring.

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  • Why can't patients be seen without records?
    That is what we always do if there is an iT failure - it is best to be practiced at this, so you know how to cope; but it is just like doing a HOME VISIT, or seeing a TR!
    No problem - unless they want a repeat prescription - and they SHOULD NOT be seeing the GP fo rthat!

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  • anonymouse3 @2.19pm.

    So you admit not reading the notes properly (or at all) before a home visit? Even when IT has not failed?

    There should be a difference between unavoidable circumstances (eg IT failure) and deeming sloppiness as being equivalent.

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  • IT failures like this all too common I'm afraid.
    Subcontactors working to "upgrade" our N3 lines to HSCN (supposedly faster) managed to destroy our phone system for 3 days -and did a runner. Absolute chaos.

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