31-year-old woman died after NHS IT blunder left her without care (2024)

NHS IT failures have been linked to three deaths and more than 100 instances of serious harm at NHS hospital trusts in England.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request also revealed that 200,000 medical letters were unsent as a result of problems with NHS computer systems.

Over the past two years NHS England has invested £900m for new improved systems, but almost half of hospital trusts with electronic patient systems have reported problems.

Coroners highlighted that these failings played a role the death of 31-year-old Emily Harkleroad.

The dietitian and swimming enthusiast collapsed in December 2022 and was taken to A&E at University Hospital of North Durham where she was diagnosed with a blood clot on her lung, known as a pulmonary embolism.

Coroners highlighted that these failings played a role the death of 31-year-old Emily Harkleroad

There were delays in giving her blood-thinning treatment that she urgently needed and a new computer system only installed months earlier failed to identify which patients were critically ill and needed to be prioritised, an inquest heard.

Ms Harkleroad died the following morning. The coroner called on the hospital trust and software supplier Cerner, now owned by Oracle, to take action to prevent future deaths, according toBBC News.

Oracle told BBC News: 'While there is no suggestion that software was at fault in this case, we continue to work closely with our NHS partners to implement successful programmes that help them deliver the safest and most effective care for the 16 million citizens our systems support in the UK.'

Making the shift to paperless and introducing computerised records is a government priority. It's hoped this will make everyone's health information easily accessible to GPs. hospitals and care homes.

However, it hasn't been straightforward with the deadline set by theDepartment of Health and Social Care now at 2026.

Although millions has been spent on electronic patient records, many are experiencing major technical problems.

Over the past two years NHS England has invested £900m for new improved systems (file image)

The FOI sent to all acute hospital trusts in England, of which 116 responded found these incidents that put patents at risk were not isolated.

In fact, 89 trusts said they had instances when patients could be harmed as a result of problems with theirElectronic Patient Record (EPR) systems.

There was also126 instances of serious harm linked to IT issues, across 31 trusts and three deaths across two trusts all related to EPR problems.

Another death that coroners said could have been prevented was 22-year-old Darnell Smith whohad sickle cell disease, cerebral palsy and was non-verbal.

Mr Smith was admitted to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, in November 2022 with a cough, cold-like symptomsand a reduced appetite, the BBC reported.

22-year-old Darnell Smith , pictured with his father Erroll, had sickle cell disease, cerebral palsy and was non-verbal was another death that could have been prevented, coroners say

A coroner concluded that staff were not aware of his particular needs and it was not visible in the hospital computerised records

Mr Smith was admitted to critical care several hours after his care plan came to light. he was then put on a ventilator the next morning and died from pneumonia two weeks later.

A coroner concluded that staff were not aware of his particular needs and it was not visible in the hospital computerised records.

'For me, the IT system should be set up in a way where you have to see it… you know - it just doesn't allow you to move any further until you've read what you're supposed to read,' his father Erroll told BBC News.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust has apologised for the care Mr Smith received and say a new IT system is being introduced this year.

Professor Erika Denton, National Medical Director for Transformation at NHS England, said: 'Electronic patient record systems have been shown to improve safety and care for patients, including helping clinicians detect those at risk from conditions such as sepsis and preventing medication errors.

'The NHS has invested nearly £900 million over the past two years to help local organisations introduce new and improved systems, so they are no longer relying on paper records or patchwork systems – which carry far greater risks to safety, care delays, and patient privacy.

'However, like any system it's essential that they are introduced and operated to high standards, and NHS England is working closely with trusts to review any concerns raised and provide additional support and guidance on the safe use of their systems where required.'

31-year-old woman died after NHS IT blunder left her without care (2024)


31-year-old woman died after NHS IT blunder left her without care? ›

31-year-old woman died from blood clots after NHS computer blunder left her without vital care - one of three fatalities and 100 cases of 'serious harm' linked to IT system failures despite £900m cash boost.

How does a doctor feel when a patient dies? ›

Doctors and death

Doctors may be affected by the death of a patient they knew well, or because of the circ*mstances surrounding the death. They may have associated feelings of self doubt, helplessness, guilt, or failure, or they may be worried that they will be criticised for their involvement in the patient's care.

What do doctors do after a patient dies? ›

After a death, you must speak with the patient's family and your medical colleagues. In lay language, explain to the family what happened and what efforts were made. Your colleagues need a medical reason for the death, and you may be required to discuss it during a morbidity and mortality conference.

How to deal with first patient death? ›

Coping with your first patient death

Try to acknowledge those emotions, rather than shutting them off. It can also be helpful to talk to someone. This might be a trusted friend, or a more experienced colleague.

What happens immediately after death in hospital? ›

After a death

The body will then be laid out and kept in the hospital mortuary until you arrange for the funeral directors, family or whoever you chose to collect it. If you choose, funeral directors will take the body to their chapel of rest until the funeral takes place.

What happens before a patient dies? ›

In the hours before death, most people fade as the blood supply to their body declines further. They sleep a lot, their breathing becomes very irregular, and their skin becomes cool to the touch. Those who do not lose consciousness in the days before death usually do so in the hours before they die.

How do nurses feel when a patient dies? ›

Nurses accept death as part of life and do not feel fear of death. Sadness, helplessness and regret are the most common types of nurses' emotions caused by the death of patients, regardless of the nurses' length of service and the place of work.

What is the process when a patient dies? ›

Deaths in hospital

If your relative dies in hospital, staff will contact you, lay out the body and arrange for it to be taken to the hospital mortuary. You will then be asked to arrange for the body to be collected by funeral directors, who will normally take it to their chapel of rest.

What is the most important priority of care for a dying patient? ›

The five priorities focus on: recognising that someone is dying; communicating sensitively with them and their family; involving them in decisions; supporting them and their family; and creating an individual plan of care that includes adequate nutrition and hydration.

How do doctors react when they lose a patient? ›

Many of the most experienced healthcare professionals feel grief or loss for patients who have passed away. However, you will get better at handling them over time. You can experience a sense of loss when a patient dies and the event can also evoke feelings of guilt or anger.

What is it like for a doctor to lose a patient? ›

What do doctors feel when their first patient dies? I was fresh out of medical schooling when this happened. Freaked out, numb shock, loss (very intense), inadequacy, trepidation, drained, sucked dry.

How do doctors describe death? ›

Death occurs when the heart stops beating. We call this death by cardiopulmonary criteria and it is how death is defined for more than 95 percent of people. A person stops breathing and their brain shuts down, causing all life processes to cease.

What happens to a medical practice when the doctor dies? ›

If a physician moves, retires, or passes away, sometimes another physician will either "buy out" or take over their practice. The "active" patients are usually notified by mail (as a courtesy), and told where to obtain their records.

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