London ambulance 999 system suffers outage

The NHS London Ambulance Service suffered technical issues that forced it to abandon automated call handling systems and switch back to pen and paper on Wednesday

The London Ambulance Service's 999 call system suffered a technical fault on Wednesday that resulted in having to revert back to handling calls using pen and paper notes.

The issue — which arose on Wednesday morning according to a post on the London Ambulance Service's (LAS) website — was the result of attempting to implement a new call handling system supplied by arms manufacturer Northrop Grumman.

London ambulance

The London Ambulance Service's 999 call system suffered a technical fault that resulted in having to revert back to handling calls using pen and paper notes. Photo credit: Benjamin Ellis/Flickr

"We brought in a new 999 call-taking system overnight, which developed some technical issues during the course of the morning," an LAS spokesperson wrote.

As a result of the issues, the LAS had to resort to manually noting down call information and passing it on to ambulance crews over the radio while it attempted to fix the problem. However, an update later in the day revealed the new technology was still suffering problems and that the LAS would revert to its old call-taking system.

"We have now decided that we will revert back to using our original computer system while the issues with the new system are being resolved," a spokesperson said.

This was followed by a further update in the early hours of Thursday morning to inform users of the service that the original call-taking system was back in place and that the LAS was responding to 999 calls as normal.

The NHS LAS said it will be conducting an investigation into the issues that affected the rollout of the new system.

The new system was intended to be in place by 2010 and to be "fully operational to support the London Ambulance Service during the 2012 London Olympics", according to a Northrop Grumman statement from December 2008.

Northrop Grumman declined to comment.


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