No routine tests are taking place at Guy’s and St Thomas’ trust (GSTT) amid an IT meltdown and ‘a lag of 4,000 tests’, which is increasing GP workload at nearby practices.
GPs have been told by the trust not to send patients to the pathology lab, which is operating entirely on paper, unless it is clinically urgent, a source told Pulse.
GSTT had to cancel operations and postpone appointments after its IT system failed last Tuesday afternoon due to the extreme heat.
The issues are ‘ongoing’, the trust said on Twitter on Monday, and added: ‘We are working tirelessly to fix these problems and are doing everything possible to minimise the impact this is having on our services’.
Hurley and Riverside Practices in central London yesterday received around 500 A4 sheets of paper with test results on, which they will have to hire an extra doctor to go through by hand.
A spokesperson for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust told Pulse: ‘We continue to respond to significant IT problems on our sites, which is having an ongoing impact on our services.
‘While we have been unable to process routine tests during this time, we have continued to process all urgent pathology specimens for GP practices who use our laboratories.
‘We are very sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused and our staff are doing everything possible to minimise the impact on patients. Some IT systems are back online and our teams are working around the clock to fix these problems as soon as possible.’
The trust is using a paper ordering and reporting system, but critical results are being phoned through to practices, as per usual lab processes.
The trust said it is communicating regularly with general practice to keep them updated on the situation.
Dr Satinder Kumar, GP partner at the Hurley and Riverside Practices, told Pulse that it has been difficult to get results for patients who had tests done from 19 July.
He said: ‘Patients are obviously concerned and worried about their results. There’s increased contact by telephone and by eConsult, so we’re having to fuel those.
‘As of yesterday evening, it was still uncertain when the IT system would be up and running. I asked our PCN chair, and he [said] it was being discussed, but there was no firm date when normal services or any degree of normalcy might be resumed.’
Dr Kumar said the practice was receiving old-fashioned paper results from the trust: ‘Normally, digitally, when we receive results, we can see which are the abnormal and which are the normal, because they’re usually indicated by a red exclamation mark. With the paper results, we will have to do more work.’
He said: ‘Yesterday, we must have had 500 A4 sheets of paper. Someone will have to sit down and divide them into normal and abnormal.
‘Of the abnormal, we will need to know who needs to be contacted, immediately, urgently, more routinely, because among those results, there may be results that need two-week waits. There may be people who need to be contacted immediately about diuretic changes according to the renal function, and so on.’
Dr Kumar added: ‘We will have to take on a new locum, because it will take a doctor to sit down and go divide normal from abnormal, because the printed results are white A4 sheets of paper with grey print, and you have to be careful. It takes time to look through all of the various components of renal function and so on.’
He said: ‘It’s going to require more admin and more GP resource, more telephone calls from our patients saying, “Where are my results?”.
‘The other thing is we’ve had no access via the local care record. We can’t access clinic letters or X-rays or anything like that. It is a difficult time.’
When the practice rang the GSTT pathology lab yesterday, they ‘reported to us that there was a lag of 4,000 tests. I don’t know if they were processing them or what that meant’.
Dr Kumar said the practice is warning patients that they don’t know when the results will be available, and are trying to use King’s College Hospital pathology lab for the most urgent cases.
He said: ‘On top of this, we’ve had a problem with bloodletting needles. We hadn’t got the equipment to take blood in our own practices, because there’s been deficiency of the appropriate green needles. So it’s layer on layer really.’
Last year, GPs were asked to limit the samples they sent to the one of the largest pathology providers in the NHS due to ‘significant’ Covid-related staff absences.
This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.