This site is intended for health professionals only


Gremlins in our new IT system are giving me nightmares



Phoning IT support is getting too repetitive.  Frankly, those people are making me want to self-inject an air embolus the size of a zeppelin.

Allow me to precis recent happenings and forgive me if I briefly flirt with ‘tech talk’.

Like wildebeest leaving the plains of EMIS, we ‘migrated’ across to SystmOne 18 months ago. At the time, we were guaranteed a software upgrade to Windows 8, as the existing Windows package didn’t ‘converse’ with SystmOne. The upgrade was to occur before our ‘Go-Live’ date – the nauseating term for the launch of the new system – so everything would be beautifully in sync from the get-go.

Things rarely go as planned: Windows 8 was finally installed last month, after a year of SystmOne and MS Word causing one another to freeze and crash.

So there was an atmosphere of calm when the experts came to perform the long-awaited upgrade.  Now our computers look prettier and cleaner: no more random rotas from 2004 sitting on desktops, and no dodgy pop-ups when you launch Explorer.  Word and SystmOne ‘converse’ charmingly.

The only problem is, now that Word and our GPSOC have pallied up, the printer apparently feels left out.  And you don’t want to mess with the printer.

Before the upgrade, the printer could produce labels on ICE paper, prescriptions on FP10s, and it could even create leaflets on plain paper. Joy.

But afterwards, leaflets are now spewed out on green A5, prescriptions spat out on white A4. One punter got very heated with a receptionist when details of the Med3 he collected were peeling off the label paper they’d been printed on.

Many of us have phoned IT, many times. Someone takes control of your screen from miles away and unnervingly click-click-clicks away to make the printer perform properly.  But every time anyone logs into a new terminal with their new unique log-in, the printer refuses to co-operate.

I asked IT about this:

‘Why didn’t you set up the printers to print correctly for each log-in?’

‘Too much hassle up-front.  We knew the problem would iron itself out within a few weeks.’

Iron itself out?  What about the timewasting, the anger, the reams of wasted paper?

‘It just seemed a better way to do things.’

Brilliant.

Towards the end of his book Do No Harm, neurosurgeon Henry Marsh has an IT incident when he can’t access CT images during an outpatient clinic. Infuriated when his computer won’t let him log-on, he trawls the department for anyone with a generic password.  

An admin girl suggests trying F*ckOff45. When it doesn’t work, he tries F*ckOff44 and F*ckOff46.  His blood pressure rising, Marsh finds his sanity is saved when F*ckOff47 finally launches Windows.

Things are slowly ironing themselves out, but we’ve all spent weeks being blighted by incidents like the one experienced by Marsh. This latest IT balls-up has made us see red. Desks have been hit and mice have been thrown. It seems they make determined efforts to complicate our lives. If any of us suffers a stroke in the coming weeks, I’m knocking on their Office Windows.

Incidentally, my new password, which I’ll be lynched for sharing, is UpYours2015.

Dr Tom Gillham is a GP in Hertfordshire and specialty doctor in A&E. You can follow him @tjgillham.