Editorial

NHS send-to-all email gaffe causes chaos

840,000 public sector team members got the same message on Monday am – then made the problem worse by doing ‘reply all’ when they replied

Posted 16 November 2016 by

'Crash,' by Arslan, FlickrAn email accidentally sent to literally all 840,000 NHS’s staff in England on Monday morning caused huge disruption, the BBC is reporting – but the NHS says the issue was down to a supplier technical glitch, not user error.

One of the service’s employees sent a message to all of NHS England which started to propagate throughout the system – a situation made worse by other users doing their own ‘reply all’ forwards, too. The message was sent by the secure internal NHS email system, which is only available to NHS staff and other approved organisations.

NHS England IT bosses were able to shut the rogue mail distribution down by 10am, but GPs and other clinicians said they were still being inconvenienced by the mistake hours later.

The BBC quoted one irate doctor, who asked to be anonymised, that the resulting slowdown of communications was “driving me bananas”.

“My NHS email is very important to me because it’s the only secure way I can send and receive anything safely about my patients, so this is a major problem [and] potentially a risk to patients.”

NHS Digital, which tackled the problem, later issued an explanation.

It said that a number of NHS email accounts “have been operating slowly”, due to an NHS Mail user setting up an email distribution list which inadvertently included everyone on the NHS Mail system.

But, says the body, “This was not the fault of the user and was due to a bug in the supplier’s system.

“As soon as the issue was identified, our supplier disabled the distribution list so that no-one else could respond to it.

“We anticipate that emails sent before the distribution list was disabled will soon stop being received and that the issue will be resolved.”