NHS trust that runs Chase Farm has struggled to manage appointment bookings in wake of system failure, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
Patients across Barnet, Enfield and Camden have been affected by lost appointments caused by IT failures at a hospital trust.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands that Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust experienced a string of problems after upgrading its electronic patient record (EPR) system and widening its use.
Lists of appointments for a number of clinics are understood to have been lost as a result of the transfer last week, causing delays to clinical activity across the NHS trust’s services in North London. There were also difficulties reported with booking in new appointments and accessing patient records.
As well as The Royal Free Hospital in Camden, the NHS trust runs a range of other hospitals and clinics in North London, including Barnet Hospital and Edgware Community Hospital in Barnet, and Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield. The trust started upgrading and expanding its EPR system, which is designed to replace paper records, at the beginning of October.
One patient, who wished to remain anonymous, revealed her appointment to test for suspected cancer was apparently “wiped off” its system and that she only discovered the problem after spending three days “constantly” calling the hospital. Her two daughters, who had appointments for different health departments, were also affected by similar issues.
She told the LDRS: “I feel really, really anxious. When your doctor is telling you it is something you have to have for suspected cancer, you want to find out the answer as soon as possible.”
The patient said she was referred on a two-week cancer pathway for diagnostic tests at The Royal Free Hospital. Someone called her on 22nd September to inform her they would arrange an appointment, but ten days later she had not heard anything back about tests or an appointment date.
After spending three days chasing the hospital, she finally got through to the consultant’s secretary, who told her he could not see any tests that had been booked for her.
The patient said she then contacted the hospital’s patient advice and liaison service to complain, and the consultant came back to her last week informing her that a software upgrade at the Royal Free was causing difficulties accessing appointments. She was eventually booked in for some tests this week.
Her daughter, who had a physiotherapy appointment at Barnet Hospital last week, also asked about one of her future appointments and claimed a member of staff told her she couldn’t see it because the IT issues had “wiped a lot of appointments” and was causing “some really big problems”.
Her other daughter had an appointment at an eating disorder clinic run by the Royal Free but was also told it had been lost. The person she spoke to described the situation as “an absolute nightmare” and added that they “had lost a load of appointments as of last week”.
A spokesperson for Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust said: “The Royal Free London last week introduced an electronic patient record across its hospitals to improve the experience of our staff and patients.
“We have been working hard to ensure a smooth transition to the new system with minimal disruption but would like to apologise to this patient, and their family members, and would encourage them to contact us directly via our patient advice and liaison service so we can resolve the issues they have raised.”