Computer issues within the NHS threaten patient safety

In recent years, IT system failures have been increasingly linked to patient harm and even deaths at NHS hospital trusts in England. A recent investigation by BBC News found that three patients lost their lives due to these failures, with over 100 instances of serious harm reported. Additionally, a staggering 200,000 medical letters went unsent due to widespread problems with NHS computer systems.

Despite NHS England’s investment of £900 million over the past two years to improve systems, nearly half of hospital trusts with electronic patient systems reported issues that could potentially affect patients. The government’s goal of introducing computerized records and making the NHS paperless by 2026 has faced multiple setbacks, with many trusts experiencing major problems with their new electronic patient record systems.

One heartbreaking case highlighted in the article is that of Darnell Smith, a 22-year-old who passed away due to IT system failures. Darnell, who had sickle cell disease and cerebral palsy, was not properly monitored by hospital staff because his personal care plan was not visible in the computerized records. This lack of crucial information led to delays in his treatment and ultimately, his untimely death.

The article also discusses the case of Emily Harkleroad, who died from a blood clot after errors and delays in treatment were linked to a new computer system installed at the hospital just months prior. These tragic incidents shed light on the urgent need for reliable technology in healthcare and the potential dangers of inadequate IT systems.

Experts, including Professor Joe McDonald and Clive Flashman, have raised concerns about the implications of faulty electronic patient record systems, citing a “culture of cover-up” in the NHS and the potential for patient harm. The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has also expressed alarm at the coroners’ findings, calling for improved systems designed with clinicians’ input.

Despite these challenges, NHS England remains committed to improving electronic patient record systems to enhance patient safety and care. The organization has emphasized the importance of high standards in the introduction and operation of these systems, providing additional support and guidance to trusts where needed.

In conclusion, the article highlights the critical importance of reliable IT systems in healthcare and the devastating consequences that can arise from system failures. It calls for urgent action to address these issues and ensure the safety and well-being of patients across the NHS.

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