Exclusive GPs in London have been warned they could see an influx of patients signposted from NHS 111, after a ‘significant technical issue’ caused ‘total system outage’ today.
A letter from London’s ICBs and NHS England’s regional team, seen by Pulse, said the outage has left 111 call handlers ‘working on paper’, ‘negatively affecting’ response times.
It has also left NHS 111 unable book patients directly into GP practice slots for appointments, as the outage affects the electronic referral process.
‘To mitigate this, 111 will make a telephone booking where possible or signpost patients’, according the the letter, which also asked GP practices to ‘manage calls where possible’ and not direct to 111.
‘All system partners who receive referrals from 111’ will be impacted by the outage, ‘to a greater or lesser extent’, the letter said.
The issue occurred at 7am this morning on the Adastra system, used by 111 services and hosted by Advanced.
The letter said: ‘A solution is being worked on urgently by Adastra, however, there is no ETA for this.’
NHS 111 online services are ‘still in place’, however the link to the 111 Clinical Assessment Service is unavailable, meaning ‘online users will be signposted to alternative appropriate services as required’.
Regarding the effect on GPs, the letter said: ‘111 will not be able to book patients directly into GP practices.
‘GP practices may experience patients informing [them] they have been advised by 111 to contact their GP practice directly. GP practices may experience a higher number of referrals from patients signposted by 111 to general practice.
‘To support patients and 111 GP practices are asked if they could manage calls where possible, not direct to 111.’
It added that access to patients’ NHS numbers will also not be available for the duration of the outage.
The letter said: ‘Any service requiring NHS numbers as part of referral will need to develop a mitigation for this. NHS numbers could be found retrospectively.’
It added: ‘We thank you in advance for your support during this time and if you have any questions or concerns please contact your commissioner, EPRR team or line manager.
‘Further communication will be issued as updates are received.’
Pulse has approached Adastra for comment.
An NHS spokesperson said: ‘NHS 111 services are still available for patients who are unwell, with no current disruption for the public, but as ever if it is an emergency please call 999.
‘The NHS is working with Adastra to resolve their software issue as quickly as possible – tried and tested contingency plans are in place for local areas who use this service.’
Back in 2021, GPs in England called for practices to be able to ‘switch off’ NHS 111 referrals when practices are being overwhelmed with demand.