NHS launches ‘full investigation’ into 90-minute 999 outage

BT issues apology after primary system for handling emergency calls encountered problem

Credit: Jon Hunt/Pixabay

The NHS has said that a “full investigation” has begun to examine technical problems that brought down the nationwide system for handling 999 calls for almost an hour and a half yesterday morning.

The outage was first reported – by multiple police forces, fire services, and NHS bodies – shortly after 8.30am on Sunday. Callers across all four countries of the UK remained unable to get through to the service until shortly before 10am, when supplier BT successfully rerouted calls to a back-up system.

Even after the service was restored, London’s Metropolitan Police advised citizens that “999 lines are very busy following the technical fault that impacted all emergency services earlier; please only call 999 if you need immediate help”.

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The situation improved across the course of the day and, as of an update published this morning, the NHS said: “The issue… is now resolved and the service is running as normal. Anyone with a life-threatening emergency should call 999 for assistance in the normal way. A full investigation is underway to understand what caused this problem.”

BT indicated that the core platform for supporting 999 calls had been brought back online by Sunday evening.

In statement, the company said that it is “sincerely sorry for the distress… caused” by the outage. 

“There was a short period of time as we switched over to the back-up system during which calls could not get through,” it added. “In this instance, we are still able to see who is trying to reach the operator, and our handlers reconnect calls as a matter of urgency. Our back-up platform took calls throughout most of Sunday, with people able to call 999 as usual. The primary 999 service was restored earlier this evening and we are no longer relying on the back-up system. We are monitoring the service, and we continue to work hard to determine the root cause and the impact this has had.”

Sam Trendall

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