NHS England business continuity management toolkit case study: bleep system failure

Organisation: Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Incident: bleep system failure

What happened

On a Tuesday evening, the clinical site manager (CSM) began to receive calls informing him that the bleep system did not appear to be working properly. The contractor who manages the bleep system was contacted and attended the hospital but could not rectify the fault. It was agreed that the roof with the receivers needed to be accessed which would be too difficult and dangerous in the dark and thus the fault had to be fixed the next day.

Action taken

The on-call manager and director were informed.

The radios pre-identified to be used in such an incident were collected from switchboard and distributed to key roles as agreed in the plan. The CSM visited the wards and gave out a mobile number so that the CSM could be contacted by areas without radios.

A communications system was put in place between the emergency teams, switchboard. The wards and departments worked well. The allocation of radios was reviewed to ensure that distribution met current needs and excess radios were removed to keep radio traffic to a minimum. In addition, the CSM gave out a contact number which allowed for easy contact with the key player overnight.

The intranet was used as a communication tool to keep staff informed. The switchboard worked extremely hard to keep communications flowing. The surplus radios were fully charged overnight for continued use.

A plan for the next day (when the fault was due to be fixed) was decided in the early morning and disseminated to all areas. The fault was fixed on time and the service was restored.

Lessons identified

A number of lessons were identified:

1. Organisations need to understand the scope of the contracts for their sub-contracted
2. Radios set aside for use in an emergency need to be maintained appropriately and a
checking regime should be in place.
3. The limits of back-up systems should be known and planned for.
4. Any back-up system supporting telephony also needs regular checking to ensure it is
working should it be needed.

Staff using radios in emergency situations benefit from having an aide memoire for radio etiquette issued along with the radio.