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Barts Health Trust Cancels Operations Due To IT Failure

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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A ‘major’ computer failure beginning on 20 April has led to a number of systems being inaccessible to clinical staff

Barts Health NHS Trust said it has had to cancel some operations as a result of an IT failure that began on 20 April and is ongoing.

The IT failure began eleven days ago when England’s largest trust experienced a “major computer equipment failure” that has made some systems inaccessible to clinicians.

Operations cancelled

The issues have mostly affected the trust’s imaging and radiology system, obliging it to cancel a “very small number of elective operations that were reliant on images” with “some patients attending outpatients are experiencing delays”, the trust said in a statement.

“Clinical teams have completed a patient-by-patient review to ensure that the appropriate course of action is taken for each of them, endeavouring to keep the disruption to an absolute minimum,” the trust stated.

NHS - Shutterstock: © RTimagesThe system supplies x-rays and other images, including CT and MRI scans, according to the trust.

While the historic archive of images hasn’t been lost, staff can’t access them and since new images can’t be transmitted electronically staff must view them on the machines that produced the images.

The chemotherapy prescribing system and the digital dictation system have also been affected.

Pathology system restored

The blood testing system was initially inaccessible, but progress has been made to the point that orders are new being received electronically by all Barts Health laboratories, the trust said.

The trust said it is continuing to “urgently maintain” its services’ operational resilience and to ensure patients are safe.

“We have tried and tested contingency plans in place to keep our patients safe and we will continue to communicate to patients and local partners,” the trust stated.

Barts was hit by a cyber-attack in January that resulted in malware being installed on some of its systems, but the trust said patient data wasn’t affected.

At a March board meeting the trust reportedly disclosed that the attack had made use of a previously unknown security bug that has since been patched, and that the malware affected all of Barts’ sites except the Whipps Cross Hospital before it was contained.

The virus involved in the attack affected blood-testing systems and required the temporary use of manual systems, but didn’t disable any other IT systems used to deliver clinical care.

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