Operations postponed and ‘backlog’ warning issued following two NHS outages

Written by Sam Trendall on 25 January 2018 in News

Manchester network and Welsh datacentres suffer simultaneous downtime

Credit: PA

NHS bodies in Wales and Manchester were hit by IT outages yesterday. The technical difficulties saw Mancunian patients advised not to visit A&E unless they had “serious or life-threatening emergencies”, while Welsh health-service organisations have been warned that they may experience a “backlog” following downtime at two datacentres.

Shortly before 3pm on Wednesday, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust announced that it was “experiencing a network outage” at both the Trafford General Hospital, and its main site in central Manchester, which houses the Manchester Royal Infirmary, the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, and Saint Mary’s Hospital.

“We are working to resolve this as quickly as possible, and services are using their well-rehearsed business continuity plans,” the trust said.

Within a few minutes of this, the trust tweeted a link to this statement, and added: “please only attend A&E for serious or life-threatening emergencies”. 

The trust later announced that the outage “affected access to a number of clinical systems for around four hours”. This caused some operations and outpatient appointments to be postponed.

By 5pm all services were back up and running, and the trust claimed that its procedures for maintaining services in the event of technology failures had worked well.

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“Services used their well-rehearsed business-continuity plans, including paper-based patient records, to minimise disruption to patients as far as possible during this period,” it said. “This did mean that a small number of planned operations were postponed and some outpatient activity was also rearranged.  We will be re-scheduling these as soon as possible. We would like to thank patients and our staff for their cooperation and support during this time.”

At the same time as the Manchester trust was suffering an outage, health-service entities in Wales were affected by problems at two NHS datacentres in the country.

At 2.41pm the Welsh Government’s Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) tweeted: “There is currently a technical issue affecting two NHS Wales datacentres. This is under investigation by the NHS Wales Informatics Service and is being dealt with as a priority.”

A little over two and half hours later, the problems had been fixed, but the Welsh DHSS advised that the downtime could result in ongoing delays processing data in some parts of the country.

The department tweeted: “The NHS Wales Informatics Service has confirmed that all systems are now back although there may be a backlog affecting some areas. They have assured us that there were no data security issues.”

It added: “The cause of the technical issue that affected two NHS Wales Data Centres remains under investigation.”


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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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