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London Ambulance Service downed by upgrade cockup

999 operators driven back to pen and paper

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Operators at the London Ambulance Service (LAS) were forced to use pen and paper when fielding emergency 999 calls yesterday, after a computer system upgrade went horribly wrong.

The LAS said the botched upgrade, which was intended to replace a 20-year-old system, failed and caused technical havoc for its workers for more than 24 hours.

"We have now reverted back to our original call taking computer system and are responding to 999 calls as normal," said said the service in a statement issued in the early hours of this morning.

"We took this decision after we experienced technical issues implementing a new 999 computer system yesterday morning (8 June)."

According to the Health Service Journal the LAS was upgrading its system to Command Point software provided by Northrop Grumman.

But technical problems forced 999 operators to use a manual system by "recording calls on paper and passing information to ambulance crews over the radio."

The LAS said it would conduct a thorough review of the technical cockup. It's not clear if or indeed when the emergency service will attempt another upgrade of its software.

The NHS Trust noted (PDF, page 27) in a board meeting discussing corporate risks last month that: "There is a risk that the working processes in the dispatch or call taking functions of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) do not align with those required by Command Point, causing a delay to the date of Go Live, causing a cost and time overrun."

Northrop Grumman originally planned to implement its Command Point software in 2010. ®

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