Sussex NHS trust recovers from ‘critical incident’ after weekend IT outage

Technology problems saw ambulances diverted away from two hospitals and patients advised to travel only for ‘lifesaving emergencies’, as trust advises that teams are still feeling the aftereffects of disruption

A major NHS trust has warned that frontline staff may still be under “additional pressure” as hospitals recover from a “critical incident” caused by an IT outage.

University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust declared a critical incident at 10pm on Sunday night as two of its hospitals – Royal Sussex County (pictured above) in Brighton and Princess Royal in Haywards Heath – were “significantly affected by problems with IT and phone systems”.

The problems were severe enough that ambulances that would normally have gone to the two hospitals were diverted to other facilities nearby, and local patients were advised against attending either of the sites’ emergency departments unless they were facing a “lifesaving emergency”.

“Declaring a critical incident allows staff to focus on the needs of their patients, and for the trust to seek support from local partners”, said an update issued on Sunday night. “The disruption is widespread, and frontline teams are affected.”

Within a couple of hours, the trust reported that it made some inroads in its work to restore tech services and, at 9am on Monday, it reported that it was “no longer in critical incident, after good progress was made overnight in restoring IT systems”.

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Although senior leaders have indicated that no scheduled operations or outpatient appointments were cancelled as a result of the outage, the statement issued by the trust yesterday morning advised that the tech issues may have continued fallout.

“Anyone with a planned appointment today should attend as normal unless they are contacted by our staff,” the statement said. “Our emergency departments are receiving patients as normal, but please be aware that all teams are under additional pressure after the disruption over the weekend – if your health problem is not an emergency, or life-threatening, please visit or call 111 for help or advice. Once again, we would like to say thank you to everyone who has responded so brilliantly – our colleagues in IT and facilities and estates, our clinical teams, the South East Coast Ambulance Service, and other NHS Trusts and partners.”

Alongside the Royal Sussex and Princess Royal, Worthing Hospital and St Richard’s in Chichester were “also affected to a lesser degree” by the incident.

The four sites are part of seven-strong network of hospitals run by the trust – which claims to be one of the largest in the south of England, with about 20,000 employees serving about 1.8 million patients.

Sam Trendall

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