Incompatible NHS IT systems makes testing across east London boroughs ‘laborious’

Incompatible NHS IT systems in Waltham Forest and Redbridge mean it is “laborious” to test patients from one borough in the other.

Redbridge councillors raised concerns last week when some patients reported they were being turned away when they tried to get blood tests at Waltham Forest clinics.

There is currently a serious backlog of blood tests in Redbridge, with people facing waits of up to 16 weeks, and this is not expected to be cleared until mid-January.

However, a spokesperson for the combined north east London clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), said the IT issue meant it would be possible but difficult for Redbridge residents to get tested in the neighbouring borough.

The spokesperson said: “Redbridge residents can and have always been able to access blood tests in Waltham Forest, and many hundreds have done so in recent months.  

“However, the IT systems in Waltham Forest align with inner London health partners and those in Redbridge with outer London health partners.”

They explained that testing someone in Waltham Forest and sending the results to Redbridge would be “laborious” and add “pressure onto the NHS and staff”.

This is because the process “requires manual handling and/or phone calls, which are less reliable than an automatic system and can add delays”.

They added: “We have made tremendous progress over the past few years to connect up multiple IT data sources both within organisations and across organisations.

“We continue to integrate more and more services to improve the patient experience.”

Two separate Redbridge patients have reported being refused tests by Leytonstone doctors, who allegedly told them it was because Redbridge’s CCG “had not paid their bills”.

At a meeting on November 5, Heather Noble, medical director for Waltham Forest’s NHS Trust, said they “apologise unreservedly”, confirming the claim was untrue.

She said: “My best guess is that there was idle gossip that someone picked up as truth. It was completely unprofessional to say. Even if it was true, they should not have said it.”

The CCG spokesperson added: “It is unclear which, or whether, any staff members mentioned non-payment of bills as a reason why Redbridge residents might not be able to access blood tests in Waltham Forest. 

“We are not aware of any patients who have arrived with the correct paperwork and been turned away from Whipps Cross or Langthorne.”

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter