Friday, February 16, 2007

Britain: Faulty software puts child health at risk

The health of children is at risk because an NHS computer system wrecked 20 years of accurate immunisation records

Faulty software introduced in 2005 has left some primary care trusts (PCTs) unable to track whether children have been vaccinated and screened for genetic conditions, raising fears that many are unprotected against diseases. Parents are not being reminded when their children are due for jabs and check-ups. The Health Protection Agency cannot publish full statistics on the uptake of vaccines because the five worst-affected London trusts cannot provide accurate data.

When the shortcomings of the Child Health Interim Application (CHIA) software were disclosed by The Times a year ago, the Department of Health stated that the problems were being addressed. Staff were said yesterday to be "in despair" at continuing difficulties with the system supplied by BT. Christine Sloczynska, consultant community paediatri-cian at Waltham Forest PCT, in East London, said: "I'm sure there will be kids who slip through the net and will be unimmunised. Our immunisation take-up has fallen from 94 per cent to 58 per cent, but we don't know how much it is due to children missing their vaccinations, or to lack of data."

The Health Protection Agency said that five trusts had been excluded from national figures for uptake of MMR and other vaccinations as their data were considered unreliable. Pat Troop, head of the agency, said: "There is still a gap in the data, and it's something the local NHS are concerned about, not just us. Not monitoring coverage of measles is how infections might happen." Mike Catchpole, of the agency, said that it was not possible to predict when the affected PCTs could provide the data.

The CHIA software was introduced in ten London trusts when an older system was withdrawn. Dr Slocynzska said that the system could not be used to generate lists of those who match particular criteria, such as missing vaccinations. This makes it difficult for GPs to issue reminders. Parents are still issued with a "red book" listing a vaccination schedule, but the problems with the computer make it hard to tell them when new jabs are available. Birth records formerly sent online from maternity units must be entered by hand, and there is a backlog. "We are sometimes told of a child's death before we know it has been born," Dr Sloczynska said. BT has promised to replace the software.


NHS corruption

SUSSEX: An NHS trust that gave a former public health director a payoff of 243,000 pounds after working less than three weeks also paid lawyers 12,000 for advice on how to manage the case. Sussex Downs Primary Care Trust revealed that it made the payments to Capsticks Solicitors, of London. The legal advice concerned the treatment of Iheadi Onwukwe, 41, who was appointed in September 2002. He worked briefly for Eastbourne Downs Primary Care Trust, which later merged with Sussex Downs Primary Care Trust, and was reported to have been paid a salary for almost three years while on “gardening leave” before leaving his post. Gina Brocklehurst, former chief executive of the trust, received 230,000 to leave as part of the reorganisation. Norman Baker, MP for Lewes, said: “This shows how endemic the problem is of the NHS writing out blank cheques with our money.”



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation. Both Australia and Sweden have large private sector health systems with government reimbursement for privately-provided services so can a purely private system with some level of government reimbursement or insurance for the poor be so hard to do?

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