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Computer virus forces Lincolnshire trusts to cancel ops

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A computer virus has forced a struggling hospital trust to declare a major incident and cancel two days of routine operations, appointments and diagnostics.

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust said yesterday that it had taken the decision to shut down the majority of its systems after they became infected with a computer virus.

“We have taken the decision, following expert advice, to shut down the majority of our systems”

Karen Dunderdale

Meanwhile, the neighbouring United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust has announced it is also cancelling all planned operations today, because it shares four clinical IT systems with Northern Lincolnshire and Goole.

As a result, the foundation trust, which runs hospitals in Grimsby, Scunthorpe and Goole, has cancelled all planned operations, outpatient appointments and diagnostic procedures for 31 October and 1 November. It said anyone arriving at the hospitals for these appointments would be sent away.

Deputy chief executive Dr Karen Dunderdale said the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole’s main concern was patient safety and stressed its accident and emergency departments will stay open.

She said: “A virus infected our electronic systems yesterday [Sunday, 30 October] and we have taken the decision, following expert advice, to shut down the majority of our systems so we can isolate and destroy it.

“A major incident has been called and all planned operations, outpatient appointments and diagnostic procedures have been cancelled for today and tomorrow,” she said.

“All adult patients, over 18, should presume their appointment or procedure has been cancelled unless they are contacted. Those who turn up will be turned away,” she added.

“We have a plan in place to minimise risks to patients which includes reverting to manual systems”

Mark Brassington

It is the third time in less than a year outpatient appointments have caused concerns for the foundation trust.

A serious incident was declared earlier this month after more than 20,000 outpatients were overdue follow-up appointments. More than 22,600 people last week were overdue outpatient follow-ups, down from 26,600 at the end of August.

It follows the Care Quality Commission issuing a warning in its April inspection report about the “unacceptable delays” of 30,000 overdue for consultations

Dr Dunderdale said all current inpatients will continue to be cared for and discharged as soon as medically fit, while major trauma cases and high risk women in labour will be diverted to neighbouring hospitals.

She added that emergency departments remained open and were accepting ambulances, but patients were being urged to “only visit if they absolutely need to”.

“We are reviewing the situation on an hourly basis,” she said. “Our clinicians will continue to see, treat and operate on those patients who would be at significant clinical risk should their treatment be delayed.”

Karen Dunderdale

Karen Dunderdale

Karen Dunderdale

Meanwhile, in a later statement, United Lincolnshire chief operating officer Mark Brassington said it had shut down the links with the systems it shares with Northern Lincolnshire and Goole as a precautionary measure and would revert to manual systems.

Mr Brassington said the biggest impact would be in processing blood tests, accessing historic results and the availability of blood for transfusions.

He added: “ULHT shares four clinical IT systems with NLAG, so as a precautionary measure to protect ULHT, links with these shared systems have been stopped. We have a plan in place to minimise risks to patients which includes reverting to manual systems.

“Our number one priority is keeping patients safe, so we are cancelling all planned operations tomorrow [Tuesday] unless there is a clinical reason not to,” he said. “We are trying to contact all patients, but patients due to have an operation on Tuesday are being asked to not turn up unless they hear otherwise.”

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