The London Ambulance Service (LAS) is urgently seeking a commercially available off-the-shelf replacement for its incident-prone Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system in a £4 million tender announced by the LAS today.
The software handles incoming emergency calls and helps prioritise dispatch to priority incidents. LAS’s existing system (which receives approximately 5,000 calls per day) suffered a critical IT failure on New Year’s Eve in 2017.
The LAS says the software “must be installed, tested and operational by late 2020 prior to the winter period when demand increases.”
Requests to participate need to be in by March 3.
The tender is being expedited as a result of a “state of urgency” under Public Contract Regulations 2015 legislation, which that allows the contracting authority to cut the tender period to just five days under duress.
It adds: “Typical lead time from award to operational deployment for a CAD solution means there is insufficient time to follow a full open procedure and allow time for contract mobilisation prior to this point”.
(The LAS notes that the overall value to the supplier could be £30 million in the event that other Ambulance trusts decided to access the contract.)
The LAS’ current CAD system went down on New Year’s Eve 2017.
As a some patients in London had to wait up to seven hours for the ambulance service to respond after an IT systems failure knocked the CAD system offline.
The cause of the incident was identified as a “historic upgrade” that was eating up the system’s resources over time and cumulated in the system being overloaded, slowing down to the point where it was completely useless. This slowdown occurred when staff needed it most, as on any typical day the LAS handles roughly 5,000 calls, but on New Year’s Day they receive more than 2,500 between midnight and 6am.
Contingency plans involve switching to manual pen and paper processes.
Unfortunately, a review of the incident found that: “One patient who died on New Year’s Day potentially had their treatment delayed as a result of the high volume of calls and the manual dispatch system that was in place during the CAD outage.”
(An LAS spokesperson noted to Computer Business Review that a coroner’s inquest found
It added: “A comprehensive review of the failed upgrade was undertaken in conjunction with Northrop Grumman, the supplier of the software. This identified that adequate testing of the changes had not been completed, resulting in previously unidentified compatibility issues between the LAS version of the software and the upgrade.”
The supplier was not solely to blame, it suggested: “Management and routine maintenance of the trust’s IT systems were found to be insufficient, with a lack of oversight at board level. Since the incident, LAS has appointed a chief information officer and a non-executive director with extensive experience in IT has joined the board. A comprehensive plan is now in place that includes improvements to governance and performance management of IT.”
The London Ambulance Service operates over 70 ambulance stations within the nation’s capital. It handles roughly 1.9 million emergency calls every year and spends circa. £58 million annually on goods and services delivered by suppliers.
The tender spans a new solution and integration, implementation, training, ongoing support and maintenance services over a 48 month contract term. LAS notes: “In so far as is possible, the system shall be comprised of a commercially off the shelf product.”