Nearly 800 GP practices in England were unable to work yesterday after losing access to their patient care records systems, following a series of server failures.

EMIS care record systems were disrupted from 8.25am on 18 August, affecting 333 GP practices around the country. A further 446 practices were hit at 11.50am, with some forced to close as a result.

A spokeswoman for EMIS said the “performance and stability issues”, affecting its EMIS Web and EMIS PCS Enterprise systems, were caused by a “series of hardware failures resulting in an outage at its data centre.”

EMIS said its data centre began normal operation shortly after 1pm yesterday. Systems for most practices were back online by 3.40pm, with normal service resumed for all practices by 6pm.

The firm said it has not identified any data loss as a result of the outage. The spokeswoman said EMIS had launched an investigation into the incident, and was working with the Department of Health’s informatics directorate, Connecting for Health, and hardware suppliers.

The practices affected represented 16 per cent of practices in England using EMIS systems.

“Our support departments have been in contact with practices and we will be contacting them again with the results of our investigation and the steps that we have taken to prevent a recurrence”.

She added: “We recognised the vital role the EMIS systems play in the efficient running of GP practices, and we apologise to the affected users for this regrettable disruption to service.”

Dr Paul Cundy, vice chair of the British Medical Association’s GP IT committee, told HSJ that GPs affected were unable to work as they could not access their records.

He said: “The general history of central server systems is that they have been remarkably robust, but no-one can predict every possible complex of failures. The message for practices is that they do need to have backup systems and arrangements.”