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NHS 24 withdraws £117m upgrade over patient safety concerns

The Scottish NHS has withdrawn a £117 million upgrade to its urgent care call handling and IT system 10 days after its launch, in the face of major technical issues that would have put patient safety at risk.

The ‘Future Programme’ upgrade to NHS 24 systems – which is the Scottish equivalent of the NHS 111 service – was dropped after failing to resolve operating bugs that would have led to unacceptable delays in the run-up to winter.

In a statement, NHS 24 said the launch had proved ‘extremely challenging’ despite a ‘huge amount of planning, system testing and staff training.’

It added: ‘On the grounds of patient safety, NHS 24 has today withdrawn its Future Programme from service and moved back to its legacy system.’

NHS 24 chief executive Ian Crichton said: ’Major IT upgrades always bring a degree of challenge, but what makes implementation of our new technology solution unusually difficult is the need to keep patients safe, while we get it fully operational.

‘As winter approaches, we expect weekend call volumes to significantly increase and our forecast indicates that service levels at weekends would fall below acceptable tolerances. It is for this reason that we have taken the decision today to roll back.’

An overhaul of the system will take place over winter with the aim of reintroducing the Future Programme early in 2016.