GPs have reported ‘catastrophic problems’ accessing an IT system which left practices all over the country unable to provide care for hours.
On Friday, EMIS Web experienced technical problems which led to ‘significant disruption’ and practices being unable to access patient records, appointment bookings and prescription management.
GPs voiced their concerns about the incident on a Facebook group for EMIS Web users and called on NHS England to investigate the issue, which affected practices’ ‘ability to provide a safe service for thousands if not millions of people’.
According to the group, the majority of practices were given a category 3 (medium) impact level on Friday, which users described as ‘not appropriate’, while also pointing out that the updates that EMIS Web provided were ‘poor and very much delayed.’
Users also suggested that surgeries are moving away from EMIS because of the frequent issues with the system, with one user describing the incident as ‘clinically unsafe, time consuming, frustrating, and totally unacceptable.’
Dr Mark Essop, a GP in Bromley, told Pulse this was the worst outage he had seen in 20 years of using EMIS.
He said: ‘It was massive and country-wide, it was on a scale that I’ve never seen before and it left some practices with only one or two users being able to log in, and some with none.
‘It has been the biggest I have ever experienced and it crippled practices on the cusp of a bank holiday.’
He added: ‘In addition to this outage, in the last two weeks, our team, which serves over 40 practices and a patient population of over 365,000 patients, has been unable to work due to EMIS failures.’
Nicola Lawlor, service lead for NHS England’s Primary Care Service Management team, said that NHS England were ‘actively involved’ and have had ‘several follow up calls with EMIS already, and will continue to do so to understand why the issue occurred and what controls have been put in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.’
In an update to practices, Suzy Foster, chief executive officer at EMIS, said: ‘Personally, and on behalf of EMIS I apologise unreservedly for the distress caused.
‘Understandably you want to know what happened. In short, we released some code to fix a bug that was causing EMIS Web to crash.
‘This fix should have only been deployed to practices using Resource Publisher but due to human error it was applied to sites still using Template Manager, which caused it to stop working.’
A spokesperson for EMIS told Pulse the problem was ‘identified and resolved the same day’, adding: ‘EMIS Web has been available for all practices today (30 May). We are very sorry for the significant disruption caused by the technical problems experienced on Friday 26 May.
‘The cause of the issue was identified and resolved the same day. We are in touch with our customers to explain what happened and to share the immediate changes we are implementing to ensure it never happens again.’
In March, a five-day IT failure forced GP practices across Kent and Medway to raise alerts about patient safety, as the ICB told them to ‘return to pen and paper’ until the issues were resolved.