NHS England business continuity management toolkit case study: network failure

Organisation: London Ambulance Service (LAS) NHS Trust
Incident: network failure

What happened

On 22nd March 2022 London Ambulance Service NHS Trust (LAS) experienced a network failure due to a firewall routing issue, the issue took 2 and half days to resolve. This primarily affected remote workers access to Trust systems.

During COVID many services developed remote working strategies and have continued post COVID – this included our scheduling department (coordination of critical staffing requirements), 111 call handling, remote clinical advisory services, and remote on-call functions.

In addition, the technology for ePCR (electronic patient records), access to drug cabinets and inventory, and body worn cameras were affected.

ePCR had an impact on the ability to transfer patient information to hospitals resulting in delayed information transfer and handover.

Work to resolve the issue required switching off firewalls and eventually replacement – during this process other systems were impacted and experienced intermittent loss of connectivity, this was mostly an issue for 999 and 111 call handling.

Whilst managing the network outage business continuity incident, LAS also responded to a Major Incident and Significant Incident. The networks issues arose due to a replacement firewall which impacted on some communication during the event.

The possibility of a cyber incident was considered and ruled out.

There was no impact on the management of patient care during the outage.

Action taken

  • Command team established.
  • Trust and local business continuity plans invoked – this included recalling remote workers to site.

Lessons identified

A number of lessons were identified:

  • Remote workers were not always able to attend site due to isolation, childcare pick up arrangements, space availability.
  • Remote GP advisory service were not able to attend site.
  • ePCR fall back was to paper – a partial loss plan to be considered to manage hospital handover aspects only.
  • Further plans required for issues with remote access for on call teams – back to basics.
  • It was noted during debrief that internal communications to update staff on the situation were not frequent enough to allow them to plan for future shifts.
  • Agency staff use for 111 services were not keen to attend site – review other staffing contingency options.