More cybernetic miracles: 14,000 patients failed to receive follow-up outpatient appointments

14,000 is a lot of patients to miss followup appointments. I do not think this feat could have been accomplished via paper:

Morecambe Bay missed 14,000 outpatients
7 February 2012
Lyn Whitfield

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust is working through a backlog of 14,000 patients who failed to receive follow-up outpatient appointments because of administrative and IT problems.

And problems with disappearing ink and Fido, the office canine, chewing up charts, but mostly the IT.

The report of an investigation into the backlog paints a damning picture of failures at the trust, which became the first to introduce the Lorenzo electronic patient record system as part of the National Programme for IT in the NHS.

That would be, the failed National Programme for IT in the NHS, the NpfIT that went Pffft (perhaps the world's most expensive onomatopoeia, at a mere £12.7bn).

The report says the problems go back many years and have their roots in a ‘mismatch’ between demand and capacity at Morecambe Bay, as well poor management and risk practices and a culture of avoiding blame.

However, it also says the trust missed a big opportunity to identify and tackle the problems when it introduced Lorenzo [a health IT system - ed.] in June 2010, and that staff work-arounds contributed to the ultimate size of the backlog.

That is, workarounds to system flaws and 'glitches.'

Eventually, there were 37,000 access plans on the Lorenzo system for which a guaranteed access date had been missed. Many of these plans were duplicates or had not been closed.

However, 14,000 patients needed to be seen and were divided into cohorts so the trust could deal with them. All these patients should have been seen by the end of March.

For the future, the report says the trust needs to establish better systems, find ways to make sure that the board knows what is going on, encourage staff to take responsibility for dealing with problems, and curb the “mal-use” of Lorenzo by imposing “sanctions” on staff if necessary.

Once again, blaming the IT users and punishing them for not conforming to the diktats of the IT and its designers.

It also says the findings of the report, and the importance of “electronic, standardised and systematic management of outpatient follow-ups” should be shared with all providers, in case others are suffering the same problems on a smaller scale.

"In case?" It sounds like they don't even know.

... when a backlog was identified during the data cleansing process for the introduction of Lorenzo, the trust failed to recognise it as a clinical problem.

Instead, to try and solve another administrative problem – the constant cancellation of clinics – the trust introduced a ‘partial booking’ system. Patients who needed a follow-up in more than six weeks were asked to call for an appointment.

“No arrangements were made to account for the 1,000 or so calls that the clinical clerks would receive per week, whilst still trying to man the reception desk and administer the clinics,” the report says. “This created chaos and confusion for patients and staff alike.”

Sounds like a government operation to me.

Patients were often offered late appointments – “some of which arrived with the patient only after the clinic had taken place.”

All of this caused patient and GP complaints, but because they seemed to relate to administrative problems, their real, clinical nature was overlooked.

In the middle of all this, outpatient staff complained that Lorenzo was slow – although the report says there is no evidence that it was slower than the system it replaced [ignore the users - their complaints are all 'anecdotal' - ed.]and that it was more complicated to complete a booking.

As a result, “many staff found ways around that were quicker, but these were responsible for patients having multiple access plans, which helped to label the problem as administrative.”

You never have to work around something that is not in your way.

Floor walkers initially monitored such “inappropriate” use, but this stopped once Lorenzo had stabilised. [The computer charming. - ed.]

Morecambe Bay is the first and most prominent of the ‘early adopter’ sites for Lorenzo, which was due to be implemented in the North, Midlands and East by CSC [an American management consulting firm - ed.] as local service provider.

The problems at the trust, CSC’s failure to complete the ‘early adopter’ programme, and critical reports from watchdogs and MPs on progress, have thrown a new LSP deal into doubt.

I presume they mean critical reports from MPs like this, and other reports like this from Parliament's Public Accounts Committee a few years back that stated, among many other findings, that:

... The [NPfIT] Programme is not providing value for money at present because there have been few successful deployments of the [U.S. Cerner] Millennium system and none of Lorenzo in any Acute Trust. Trusts cannot be expected to take on the burden of deploying care records systems that do not work effectively. Unless the position on care records system deployments improves appreciably in the very near future (i.e. within the next six months), the Department should assess the financial case for allowing Trusts to put forward applications for central funding for alternative systems compatible with the objectives of the Programme.


CSC announced last week that it was going to lay off 500 staff, including 46 from iSoft, which developed Lorenzo, and which CSC bought last year.

I'm sure that will help speed up software remediation.

-- SS