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NHS 111 chaos may harm patients, experts claim

Patients may come to harm as a result of NHS 111 chaos, experts claimed on Tuesday as patients were advised to avoid the service this weekend. The helpline for urgent medical advice was targeted by cyberhackers earlier this month, leaving staff working on pen and paper.

The Adastra computer software, used by 85 per cent of 111 services, was taken offline after the attack leaving call handlers unable to book out-of-hours urgent appointments and fulfil emergency prescriptions. But almost three weeks on, most staff are still operating without the system, leaving GPs unable to see patients’ medical records during urgent consultations or automatically forward prescriptions to pharmacies.

The NHS has told hospitals to prepare public awareness campaigns to “minimise” pressures on urgent and emergency care services this winter. Some hospitals have already issued messaging urging patients not to turn up at accident and emergency (A&E), unless they are facing a “serious emergency.”

Helen Hughes, chief executive of the charity Patient Safety Learning, said the continuing chaos raises “serious patient safety concerns” and will “inevitably result in avoidable harm”. 

Telling patients not to go to A&E “unless it is absolutely necessary” is only possible if GPs and NHS 111 “have the capacity and the resources to meet the demands that this places on them”, Ms Hughes said.

“Significant delays in receiving a response are potentially missed opportunities for patients to receive timely medical advice and treatment that may prevent future harm,” she added. “Delays in receiving timely care and treatment will inevitably result in avoidable harm to patients.”

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: The Telegraph (23 August 2022)


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