NHS24 ditches new £117m IT system after 10 days
Over-budget IT system will be developed offline until new year amid fears over winter call volume
Medical helpline NHS 24 has shelved a new £117m call-handling and IT system amid concerns over patient safety.
NHS24 said it had withdrawn its Future Programme from service and moved back to its legacy system with a view to re-launching early in the New Year.
Performance of the service over the past 10 days since going live “has proved extremely challenging”, according to an NHS statement, “in spite of a huge amount of planning, system testing and staff training”.
The announcement comes little more than a month after Audit Scotland raised concerns over the cost and delivery of the system, which had already been pushed back from October 2013.
The new IT system had gone so over budget it “risks to the board's ability to meet its financial targets in future years,” according to the watchdog’s report.
The estimated cost of the new system now stands at £117.4m, 55 per cent higher than the original estimate of £75.8m, Audit Scotland said.
NHS 24 chief executive Ian Crichton said: "Major IT upgrades always bring a degree of challenge, but what makes implementation of our new technology solution unusually difficult is the need to keep patients safe, while we get it fully operational.
"As winter approaches we expect weekend call volumes to significantly increase and our forecast indicates that service levels at weekends would fall below acceptable tolerances. It is for this reason that we have taken the decision today to roll back.
"While we will maintain the delivery of safe care to patients, we will continue to develop the new system offline and renew preparations to reintroduce the solution in early 2016.
"This is not a decision that we have taken lightly, given the significant investment to date, but one that will ensure we can continue to deliver vital and safe out of hours support to patients when they need it most during the coming winter."
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland said the decision to defer was “regrettable” but the “right decision to have made in the interest of patient safety and the wellbeing of staff”.
“The overriding priority of any health board must be the safety of patients and it’s clear that NHS24 felt the introduction of this new system at this time could have had an adverse impact,” said RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe.
“It therefore had no choice but to take the decision announced today.
“We also know that staff at NHS 24 have been really struggling to try and cope with the new system, even ahead of the expected increase in their workload over the winter months, so this decision, while difficult, was also right in terms of staff wellbeing until the problems with the system are ironed out.”
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