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Data centre failure pinches NHS

Affects 80 facilities

Technicians continued working today to restore a computerised patient administration system for 80 medical facilities in north-west England that failed on Sunday during upgrades to the NHS IT systems.

Hospital workers were manually tracking patients on paper after a power outage at the CSC Maidstone Data Centre, an NHS official said. Full services should be restored by Thursday.

The patient administration system, which records admissions, is run by CSC (Computer Sciences Corporation), one of four prime contractors involved in revamping the NHS's IT systems over 10 years. The failure occurred during work by CSC to install a new patient administration system, the NHS official said. No data was lost.

The outage affected eight hospitals and 72 other NHS medical facilities in the North-West and West Midlands. CSC and Hitachi, a subcontractor for CSC, were working to restore access to information in the data centre, the NHS said.

The NHS has undertaken a massive project to upgrade its IT systems in England and Wales with a £12.4bn modernisation program. It aims to have an electronic patient records system, electronic appointment booking and prescription drug system, among other goals.

A government audit in June found the programme, one of the largest civilian IT projects under way worldwide, was progressing despite high-profile problems with subcontractors in delivering services late.

The NHS, under close scrutiny by the UK government over the programme's costs, won't pay for products until delivery, shifting the financial responsibility to prime contractors, including BT, Accenture and Fujitsu Services.

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