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Ambulance computer failure might have contributed to death.

An investigation is underway by London Ambulance Service (LAS) into whether a computer failure early on New Year's Day 2017 may have contributed to a patient’s death.

At least one 999 patient is understood to have died while the computers were down.

A major investigation is being carried out to determine the cause of the problems and the full clinical impact.

LAS operations director, Paul Woodrow has apologised to patients who experienced delays as a result of the failure.

The computer-aided dispatch system, which logs emergencies and allocates ambulances, failed just after midnight.

Call-takers had to process every incident with pen and paper for five hours and control room staff had to use radios to track and assign response units.

A crew member, who was on duty overnight and wants to remain anonymous, told the BBC: "We went from running a service to running a shambles. People couldn't get ambulances. People couldn't get help. They were waiting and waiting and waiting.

"The control staff were becoming more desperate because calls were backing up. Road staff were getting frustrated because we couldn't respond to jobs. They didn't have a clue where we were or where we were going."

The problems arose on what is usually the busiest night of the year for the service, with hundreds of 999 calls every hour.

The staff member added: "The people of London were failed on New Year's Eve. They couldn't get hold of us if they needed to."

Asked if people died as a result of the computer system failure, he said: "Without a shadow of a doubt. If you'd had a cardiac arrest, we aim to get to you within eight minutes. It wouldn't have happened. You would have died.

"Patients with strokes would have lost the use of their arms, their legs, their speech, their ability to swallow and possibly their life.”

LAS staff are trained to cope in the event of technical problems with an emergency triage system in place.

In response to the whistleblower's allegation that LAS back-up system failed, director of operations Paul Woodrow said: "We're very sorry to anyone who experienced delays during those issues on New Year's Day.

"We're obviously taking that matter very seriously and have launched a comprehensive external investigation into identifying the causes of the technical issues that we suffered.

"As part of that, we have identified one patient who sadly died. We want to look more closely at whether the computer issues contributed to that."

In 2015 the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust became the first of its kind in England to be placed into special measures.

 

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.