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NHS Inconvenienced by 110 major computer failures

With the expansion of the NHS £12 billion computer system expands nationally, hospitals have been hit by 110 "major incidents" in four months//.

These problems have caused doctors being unable to call up X-rays on screens in operating theatres. Details of patient appointments and treatments have also been left inaccessible on several occasions. Staff have found that they were unable to use the main computer systems in their hospital, in some cases according to a report in Computer Weekly.

Certain sources have also alleged that there have been 20 incidents that have affected hospitals and other NHS sites at the same time.

In a particular case, around 80 trusts in England were unable to access certain systems for four days after a data centre in Maidstone crashed.

These incidents have caused concern about the Government's plans, and whether it would undermine doctors' and nurses' confidence in the system. mainly because the system is still in its infancy.

It has been pledged that within eight years the system will have connected around 30,000 GP surgeries to 300 hospitals. The project is part of Labour's plans to ensure that patients can "choose and book" the hospital at which they are treated.

According to one IT director "Some NHS trusts that have implemented Connecting for Health solutions are struggling to cope with poor system performance and service availability issues. The local service provider is working flat out to resolve the issues. However, a great deal of damage has been done in terms of deteriorating satisfaction with respect to the systems."

Some of the major difficulties are faced by doctors who are unable to view X-rays on screen. As a result they will have to obtain printed versions from the radiology department instead, which could lead to delays in operations or treatment.

The failure in hospital administration systems could lead to patients not being contacted about appointm ents to see their doctor.

Richard Bacon, the Conservative MP and a senior member of the Commons public accounts select committee said, "This is the latest evidence that there are serious and growing problems with the whole national program for IT in the health service," he said yesterday.

"In many respects the NHS IT programme is making things worse, not better, while sowing distrust and disillusionment across the health service."

According to Mr Bacon ministers should respond by reducing the scope of their plans and giving local managers more freedom to buy computer systems subject to common standards.

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