Extreme temperatures disrupt NHS trust's IT systems, impacts services

Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust (GSTT) in London, one of the NHS’s biggest hospital trusts, postponed scheduled radiotherapy for cancer patients this week after its IT system crashed as a result of extreme temperatures.

Hospital administrators declared a “critical site incident” around noon on Tuesday although the outage was ongoing on Thursday, resulting in the cancellation of some operations and appointments.

Due to the IT system crash, staff have been re-routing seriously ill patients to other hospitals in the city.

The situation means that doctors are unable to remotely access patients’ medical records and are instead required to manually write down the results of all examinations.

Additionally, they must contact the imaging department in order to get the findings of diagnostic tests including X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans.

For safety reasons, the trust has been forced to divert to other hospitals four different types of seriously ill patients: patients with heart problems, patients waiting for an organ transplant, patients with vascular problems, and patients who were scheduled to receive potentially life-saving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation therapy.

GSTT has apologized to patients and requested them to bring letters or other documentation concerning their illness to assist doctors overcome their loss of access to patients’ medical histories.

On Tuesday afternoon, when Britain faced record temperatures, both of GSTT’s data centers ceased functioning.

The air conditioning units meant to keep them cool did not work, according to insiders within the Trust.

“We are having some problems with our IT and telephone systems,” the trust tweeted on Tuesday soon after the IT issues occurred.

It said on Wednesday that it was working to resolve some ongoing issues with its phone and IT systems.

On Thursday afternoon, GSTT said that the issue was still ongoing.

“This is having a major effect. We are back to using paper and can’t see any existing electronic notes,” one doctor at GSTT said.

“We are needing to triage basic tests like blood tests and scans. There’s no access to results apart from over the phone, and of course the whole hospital is trying to use that line.”

Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said in a statement: “The trust has well-established business continuity plans to allow us to continue as much activity as possible and to ensure that patient safety is prioritized at all times.”

“Our teams are working around the clock to fix these problems as soon as possible.”

Because of the heatwave, there has been an increase in demand for NHS services at hospitals, which has led to an increase in the number of 999 calls received by ambulance trusts in recent days.

Steve Barclay, the health secretary, said earlier this week that everyone is at risk from the excessive heat, not only vulnerable populations like the elderly, pregnant women, and young children.

He advised people not to dial 999 unless there was a life-threatening emergency, and warned that the worst may still be to come.

Miriam Deakin, interim deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said the entire health service is under strain with the increase in temperatures.

Some operating rooms are becoming too hot to do surgery, she added.

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By ll07v

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