South East coast computer crashes put patients at risk

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South East Coast Ambulance computer system crashes continue to put patients at risk.

The trust must come clean to GMB members, staff and the public about problems with its computer system and what they intend to do to rectify it says GMB

GMB, the union for workers in the ambulance service, has called for an urgent review of South East Coast Ambulance’s computerised dispatch system.

South East Coast Ambulance staff have reported that the system experiences constant loading errors, runs slowly and that they experience regular system crashes that leave dispatchers unable to answer calls, contact ambulances and despatch resources within the required times putting patient safety at risk.

GMB members have also reported being bullied by management and feeling under constant pressure to meet an ever increase volume of emergency calls despite the malfunctioning dispatch system. SECAmb regularly fails to achieve the government’s required 75% response time of 8 minutes for serious and life threatening calls.

Gary Palmer, GMB Regional Organiser, said “Despite recent, well publicised scandals which ultimately cost both the chairman Tony Thorne and chief exec Paul Sutton their jobs, this trust continues to ignore its significant and potentially life threatening problems. Ongoing issues with the computerised display system are serious and yet, although data on failures is recorded for executives, nothing has been done to correct, repair or replace the system altogether.

The alarming number of missed calls and late responses to red 1&2 calls alone should ring alarm bells within the executive team. Not only have they failed to react, it appears they continue to want to prop up a computer system which, according to our members, very few trusts consider reliable enough to install in the first place. Those that did, have moved away from it for not being fit for purpose.

Emergency operation centre staff have been forced to revert to pen and paper, taking down patients’ details from another operations centre after a full system failure. They are then forced to call ambulance staff to allocate calls and to communicate triage and patient location information in person.

The trust must come clean to GMB members, staff and the public about problems with its computer system and what they intend to do to rectify it. From here on, they must be open about the serious repercussions that missed calls have had on patients with cardiac and respiratory problems and inform the public how many cases delays caused by the CAD system have affected the outcome or recovery of patients.

Once again executives and senior management have been incapable of sorting out issues within the trust and are therefore letting the service, staff and patients down; the only option is for them to stand down. GMB continues to strongly suggest that our call for a House of Commons Health Select Committee is actioned without fail by the Secretary of State for Health, if only for the safety of patients within his own constituency.”


Contact: Gary Palmer on 07552 165950 or GMB press office on 07970 863411