Cancer patients in limbo as five hospitals suffer 'major' IT crash

Henry Bodkin
Doctors have not been unable to see MRI, CT or X-ray scans on wards - Alamy

Hundreds of cancer patients have been denied treatment at one of England’s biggest hospital trusts due to a major IT failure that ground basic services to a halt.

Doctors at five large London hospitals have reported 11 days of “chaos” after the systems used to prescribe chemotherapy doses and share x-ray and MRI images broke down on April 20.

Barts Health NHS Trust said at least 136 operations had been cancelled due to the crash, as well as “hundreds” of cancer treatment sessions.

It’s ridiculous and it’s putting patients at risk

Whipps Cross doctor

The computer failure also means frantic staff have been unable to process blood tests for all but the most critical cases.

A glitch in the trust’s Picture Archiving and Communication System has meant body scans have only been viewable on the machine that took them.

A doctor at the Royal London Hospital told the Daily Telegraph: “We have been forced to leave sick patients on the ward while we go down 16 floors to catch a glance at an x-ray image, then come back and make treatment decisions based on a hazy recollection of it.

“It’s ridiculous and it’s putting patients at risk.”

The Royal London is one of five in Barts Health NHS Trust Credit: Warren Allott/Telegraph

The trust regained its ability to return blood results last Wednesday, but problems with the imaging system persisted into the weekend.

An email sent by managers to staff last week said the crisis had forced cancer teams to rebuild patient records “from scratch”.

A medic at Whipps Cross hospital said: “Everything got a lot slower and it meant a lot of people stuck in hospital needlessly.

“The longer patients stay in hospital, the greater the chance they will catch an infection."

A spokeswoman for the trust, which also includes Mile End, Newham, and St Bartholomew’s hospitals, said on Monday that staff access to images has now been restored.

“Given the range of services we provide, this situation is complex," she said.

A number of applications have been affected to varying degrees.

“We apologise to those affected and will be in touch to reschedule their appointment for as soon as we are able.”

In January it emerged Barts had been hit by a cyber attack, with a virus infecting thousands of sensitive files.

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