East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust’s phone lines affected by ‘profound and fundamental issues’ with IT system

PUBLISHED: 08:30 23 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:55 23 October 2018

Daniel WIlson

Major problems with our hospital trust’s phone lines means patients are struggling to get through, with one patient put on hold for more than two hours.

The East and North Herts NHS Trust – which runs Stevenage’s Lister Hospital and Welwyn Garden City’s New QEII Hospital – has experienced “profound and fundamental issues” since a new IT system was installed in September last year, chief executive Nick Carver has said.

The processing time for booking appointments on the phone has increased from up to five minutes to about 18 minutes.

It has been compounded by problems regarding the reliability of the phone lines into Lister’s Treatment Centre.

Patient Brian Wilson said: “I received two letters giving me separate appointment dates, so I rang the appointment helpline but disconnected the call after it had reached two hours!

“Missed appointments are a disgrace, but should we be bothered if the NHS trust is not bothering to staff the helpline?

“I have heard many stories, with callers directed to an answerphone service only to be told the inbox is full.

“Mr Carver should be ashamed. I cannot believe a problem like this, that has existed for a long time, is beyond the capability of the NHS trust to sort out.”

An NHS trust spokesman said: “Following the introduction of a new IT system in September 2017, teething problems were identified – including an increase in the time taken to process and book appointments – which means some patients have been made to wait longer than we would like for their call to be answered.

“The NHS trust is working with NHS Digital and our regulators to secure the funding necessary to address the issues and improve the way the new system works, and a stabilisation programme is being launched this week.”

To improve the reliability of the Treatment Centre phone lines, patient letters will no longer include just one number, but will allow patients to call the correct team. Managers can also more easily identify when additional staff are needed to answer calls.

The new IT system was introduced as part of a wider national deployment programme that covered 21 trusts.

Last month, our NHS trust declared a serious incident after an IT glitch meant up to 14,600 patient discharge summaries may not have been sent to GPs, meaning patients may have missed tests or appointments.

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