NHS Helpline System To Launch Four Years Late

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The new computer system has been delayed yet again to give the NHS time to train staff

A project aimed at updating the NHS 24 telephone helpline has been hit by a delay that will push rollout back to the end of next year, following previous bugs that forced an original launch date of October 2013 to be called off.

The latest problems mean that the NHS’ Future Programme rollout will not occur until at least four years than originally scheduled, and will be more than 50 percent over budget, according to the NHS’ current estimates.

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Repeated delays

The NHS has made more than one attempt to bring the system online, but one effort was cancelled due to system crashes that forced staff to resort to pen and paper to handle calls.

Earlier this year a scheduled June launch was delayed until later in the summer after a bug caused the system to display blank screens.

NHS 24 is now planning to phase in the system for certain services beginning this summer, followed by its introduction across a full range of services in one health board area to ensure that it is functioning properly, before a nationwide roll-out by the end of 2017.

Initially the system is to be launched for services including Breathing Space, NHS Living Life, the musculoskeletal helpline, death certification, blood transfusion and Fit For Work, NHS 24 said.

NHS 24 chief executive Angiolina Foster said the latest delay is due not to technical failures, but rather is intended to give the organisation tie to train staff to use the new system.

Training period

“We have recognised that ensuring our staff and operational environment are also fully ready to accept the technology is absolutely essential to making sure we can make a smooth transition to the new system,” she said in a statement. “We recognise that the past 18 months have been challenging for the organisation and know that the professionalism and dedication of our people has enabled us to give high-quality care to patients during this time.”

Health secretary Shona Robison said the delay was necessary to ensure patient safety.

“This decision follows a comprehensive review of the new system which concluded that a phased roll-out later this summer, working towards full implementation across all health boards by the end of 2017, would be both safe for patients and deliverable by the organisation,” she said.

The programme is currently estimated to cost £117m, more than $40m over its original estimate.

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