Hospital IT melts in heatwave, leaving doctors without patient records

Clinical systems 10 years old, new software due to go live next year

Doctors at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, one of the UK's largest healthcare organizations, were this week left unable to access patient records and forced to cancel appointments following an IT outage caused by the extreme heatwave.

Reports suggest both the trust's datacenters suffered outages as Britain hit record temperatures on Tuesday. Air conditioning units intended to cool computer servers failed, according to sources speaking to The Guardian.

The ongoing outage meant doctors could not see patients' medical notes remotely and had to write down the results of consultations by hand. Access to the results of diagnostic tests including CT and MRI scans was also down, leaving clinicians having to phone for results.

In a statement sent to The Reg, the trust said: "We are having some problems with our IT systems and are working hard to fix them."

The trust, which operates in London, apologized to patients who had trouble contacting it and said patients with appointments should bring "any letters or paperwork" they have to reduce delays.

The outage came after the trust board was warned months ago of the risk of running legacy systems. A Board of Directors Audit and Risk Committee report [PDF] said last November that the trust ran "IT systems that are out of support" including "IT infrastructure that had reached the end of its life."

"Work had taken place over the last six months to partially mitigate the associated security risks through applying tactical fixes to the most serious areas of risk," it said.

The trust is in the middle of moving to new electronic health records software, which is expected to go live in April 2023. It is set to be based on software from US supplier Epic under a £175 million ($210 million) contract.

The trust was running healthcare records software from iSoft as recently as 2018, according to training information on its website.

The software is a legacy of the disastrous National Programme for IT and was built by a supplier dogged by controversy and bought by CSC in 2011. As we all know, CSC merged with HPE Enterprise Services in 2017 to become DXC Technologies.

From October 2021, the trust's board sought reassurance [PDF] that plans were in place to keep the "necessary systems fully operational prior to the Epic implementation." ®

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