The NHS’ out-dated IT systems and registration databases have been criticised by the National Audit Office (NAO), which has stated they are the reason why patients are being missed for screenings.
In the NAO’s ‘Investigation into the management of health screening’ report, concerns were raised about the performance of the screening programmes.
It stated that they “rely on a complex and ageing IT system to identify who to invite for screening”, asserting that this is “not fit for purpose”. This is because the information is held in 83 different databases, meaning it is difficult to monitor and track each patient’s screening history, especially when they move location across the UK.
The NAO said the database, called National Health Application and Infrastructure Services (NHAIS), was meant to be replaced by the NHS in 2017, but this was delayed, increasing the risk that many patients have fallen off the radar.
It also noted that each screening programme relies on separate IT systems, which vary in age between ten and 30 years old.
“The Independent Breast Screening Review concluded that the IT on the breast screening programme was ‘dated and unwieldy’ and that 5,000 women were not invited to their final breast screening because of errors causing by using two complicated systems, despite the best efforts of staff,” the report stated.
Last year, the NHS admitted 450,000 women were not asked to attend to breast cancer tests who should have been due to a computer error, the Independent reported.
Health and social secretary Jeremy Hunt even noted that as many as 270 women could have died prematurely due to the catastrophic IT blunder.
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