Network failure closed hospitals to ambulance admissions

UCLH launches investigation after a network glitch

University College London hospitals trust (UCLH) has launched an investigation after a network glitch led to the closure of A&E to blue light traffic. The problem also led to cancellations of operations.

The trust was last month forced to halt a number of services, including the cancellation of 50 per cent of its operations, due to a faulty network switch. The faulty switch left computers across the trust unable to access various systems such as the trust's patient administration system and its IDX patient records software CareCast.

A spokesman for the trust said that the network-wide incident occurred during the early hours of 22 February. He explained that UCLH was required to implement its business continuity plans, which included paper-based procedures, "in order to maintain business as usual".

"Patient safety was at no stage compromised. In agreement with the London Ambulance Service, blue light patients were diverted to other hospitals for about 10 hours throughout the day. However our emergency department remained open to walk-in attendances," he said.

According to a report for directors published on 9 March 2011, the trust's ICT team together with external IT experts had to systematically disable individual sections of the trust network – including the connection to its primary data centre – in order to isolate the faulty component, which was "extremely complex and took a considerable time".

The problem was resolved within 24 hours, with the faulty equipment replaced by Logica, the supplier which maintains the trust's data network.

A full investigation into the network design and components is being undertaken to verify if there are any design issues to be addressed. An external lead investigator is being appointed from private firm RSM Tenon.

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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