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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.