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London Ambulance Service NHS Trust

Technology failure sees ambulance service revert to pen and paper

PERFORMANCE: An ambulance service was forced to record details of emergency calls with pen and paper for more than 24 hours after problems installing a new computer system.

London Ambulance Service had planned to replace its 20 year old call handling technology with a new software system called Command Point overnight last Tuesday.

Staff were prepared to use a manual system, writing down call information and radioing it to crews, for a brief period during the switchover. They had been reminded to make sure they had an up-to-date map book.

However, technical problems meant the service’s call centre, which receives 4,000 calls a day, was left relying on pen and paper while technicians worked through the night on Tuesday and all day Wednesday to try to resolve the problem.

The installation attempt was finally abandoned just before 3am on Thursday morning and the service returned to using the old call handling system.

A spokeswoman said: “At all times during this process our priority was to answer all incoming 999 calls, and get an appropriate response to those patients with the most serious illnesses and injuries.”

Unison branch secretary Eric Roberts said: “It was stressful but staff handled the situation with professionalism. They are trained in manual methods as a standard fall-back”.

Readers' comments (4)

  • Ambulance crews are all required to carry map books at all times, so that if technology on the vehicle fails there is a manual back up. The story makes it appear that this is just for the changes.

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  • The manufacturer of CommandPoint, Northrop Grumman, has a history of IT performance failures on a grand scale. Just last year they were responsible for the IT failure which affected 26 state agencies in the US, including the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, and which may have resulted in permanent loss of data.

    One chilling quote for any senior manager in the LAS to ponder;

    Anyone seen this comment before?
    Foxtrot Oscar
    I work for the London Ambulance Service. I won't say where, or in what capacity in order to protect my privacy.“We’re paying Northrop to run modern, quality service — and they have failed to do it every step of the way,” Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax) said. “At the time, I was angry that the governor extended their contract for three years when they still weren’t performing. The anger is only growing.”

    This was September last year; only 9 short months ago. So Here we go again just like CfH spending £billions of UK taxpayers money on failed IT systems (mainly built for the US market and revenue going back to America) now LAS are wasting millions on a failed US Command and Dispatch system. What the UK public and this Coalition government should know is that UK owned companies supplying UK CADs at a fraction of this price were excluded from bidding for this contract in favour of this American Corporation. WHY???

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  • Richard Bacon MP and the Public Accounts Committee would be well advised to look into this contract too on behalf of us poor UK taxpayers who are not only experiencing ruination due to the Casino Banking of American Corporates but now discovering the truth about the past government's squandering of our money on failed IT projects. Wake up Coalition government as most of you have families in London who may just need to call 999. What happens if the Paramedic's pen breaks or the crew forget their map!! This is serious.

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  • Oh heaven forbid that we have another 7/7 at the moment. Please stop this fiasco before we all suffer the consequences of this lunatic behaviour. Who in their right mind can still argue that we do not need reforms of our beloved NHS. LAS needs to be the envy of the ambulance world and not the laughing stock.

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