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Data outages affect ‘nuts and bolts’ of practices, RCGP Wales says

by Valeria Fiore
12 November 2018

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Data outages affect the ‘nuts and bolts’ of GP practices and the IT system in Wales needs to improve to ensure practices can assist their patients, RCGP Wales has said.
In response to a report on the NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) published by the Welsh National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, RCGP Wales said the findings should ‘kickstart a process that improves digital technology in the Welsh NHS’.
The NWIS programme, introduced to digitise patients’ records across Welsh health boards, was initially conceived as part of the Informing Healthcare Strategy in 2003, according to the PAC.
However, ‘NHS Wales remains far away from a seamless electronic portal for patient records,’ according to PAC chair Nick Ramsay.
The Welsh Government will now consider the PAC report.

Commenting on the report, NHS Wales chief information officer and director of NHS Wales Informatics Service Andrew Griffiths said:
‘We are fully committed to addressing the recommendations raised in the review and we are working collaboratively with Welsh Government to do this.’

Main findings
The £500m programme spends only 10% of its budget on innovation, while using a greater amount to repairing and maintaining outdated systems, the PAC report said. Other key findings include:
• There were 21 NHS Wales data outages in the first six months of 2018 – one every nine days
• Delivery of modern informatics systems across the NHS in Wales is slow
• The introduction of electronic patient records experience delays
RCGP Wales joint chair Dr Peter Saul said: ‘Quite clearly this report raises some alarming findings about the weaknesses of IT in the Welsh NHS, findings which may look familiar to those working in it.

‘Data outages can be extraordinarily disruptive for practices and for patients. They affect appointments, prescriptions and the nuts and bolts of a functioning practice and can take hours to recover from.’

He added that it will be vital for the future of healthcare to have access to reliable technology, but this will be compromised if the ‘Welsh NHS cannot get its IT right’.

Dr Saul said: ‘This report needs to kickstart a process that improves digital technology in the Welsh NHS, supporting and enabling practices to offer improved services for patients.’

He also called on the Welsh government to ensure practices that will have to change their software – following NHS Wales’ tendering process earlier in the year and the decision not to renew the EMIS contract – receive the support they need.