back to article UK pharma supplier put into special measures after new IT system causes almost 10,000 missed medicine deliveries

UK pharmaceuticals supplier Healthcare at Home (HAH) missed 10,000 medicine deliveries from October to December 2020 following a change of IT systems, a mistake that left some patients needing hospital treatment. Or says regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in a report published at the end of last week stating that HAH …

  1. heyrick Silver badge

    We deeply regret the difficulties

    No, you don't. Or else you would have had some sort of measure in place like temporarily taking on some extra staff in order to run the two systems side by side in order to verify that the new system works correctly, before decommissioning the old.

    The factory where I work changed its clocking in system and its track and trace system, and both were run together (yup, we had to beep in and out twice) because it's basic traceability. If you're trying to be ISO-any-numbers you simply cannot simply switch systems and just shrug until the shit hits the fan.

    What I deeply regret is that your negligence injured people, and the best you have to offer is pointless platitudes like "deeply regret" and "remain committed". Management, don't slam the door on your way out......

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We deeply regret the difficulties

      Is corporate manslaughter a thing?

    2. nematoad

      Re: We deeply regret the difficulties

      "...a result of a short-lived problem with our new computer system"

      The trouble is, some of the patients affected were also in danger of being "short lived". That statement by Darryn Gibson could have been cut and pasted out of the book on managerial excuses.

      Putting this bunch of incompetents into special measures is one thing. Getting some of the dead wood out the door as quickly as possible, starting at the top, is quite another and much more to the point.

    3. iron Silver badge

      Re: We deeply regret the difficulties

      If this happened with certain medical equipment required every 4 hours by my partner she would be required to go into hospital where she would be at risk of infections (in a normal year, let alone during plague times), poor treatment and a lack of on-time medication.

      I would beat down the door of the company's head office to extract deep regret from the CEO followed by a law suit to drive the company into the ground and a press campaign to ensure he never runs a health releated business again.

      This is people's daily quality of life, not something you can fob off with empty platitudes.

      1. Shadow Systems

        Re: We deeply regret the difficulties

        Exactly. I'm insulin dependant diabetic. I require multiple daily injections to survive. If my pharmacy suddenly stopped delivering my insulin, I'd be stuck in an ICU ward under observation until a regular, consistent, reliable source of insulin could be obtained. And you can damn-well believe I'd tell my medical insurance provider to send the bill for such a prolonged hospital stay to said pharmacy.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: We deeply regret the difficulties

          Medical insurance....

          I wonder if the same issue would occur with non-NHS supplies

        2. TheMeerkat

          Re: We deeply regret the difficulties

          In the U.K. we don’t need to pay when we stay in ICU. So there is no bill to send to anyone.

          1. Rob Daglish

            Re: We deeply regret the difficulties

            two things - one, I'm not sure how anyone can downvote the fact that there isn't a bill to send anybody. Secondly, I don't know if they still do it, but the NHS has in the past sent bills out following car accidents - I know this is true because I was on the receiving end of it!

            If anyone wants the full story: A car driver ran a red light and crashed into the side of a bus, which looked a bit like one of my family's, so the local rag reported it, on the front page, as ours without bothering to check. We didn't challenge them as it's a bit lit swatting a fly on your nose with a 2x4, the only one you're going to hurt is yourself... Nobody was hurt, but two ambulances were called to take people to hospital. A few weeks later, we got a reasonably substantial bill from the NHS for the callout of the two ambulances. A quick phone call to the hospital turned up the fact that a) they expected us to pass it on to our insurance who would fight it out with the other drivers insurance in the hope that someone would give the NHS a wodge of cash and b) they'd sent it to us as our name was in the paper and they didn't know who the car driver was but assumed we would as he'd ran into one of our vehicles as they'd read about it in the local rag. To be fair, once we explained the situation, they cancelled it pretty soon afterwards, but never quite made it as far as an apology...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We deeply regret the difficulties

      I was loosely involved with a different pharmacy that changed their Prescription management systems following a change in ownership. They were very sensible about it to be fair, but did do it twice in quick succession!

      The first change was from local PCs to a solution hosted in their own DC which was supposed to hook up to a robotic delivery system that would pick the items, package them and then leave it to be checked by a human and posted to either a local store or the customer direct. Unfortunately, although the same company had sold them the robotic prescriber and the software, they'd neglected to mention that the two didn't actually interface, as it seems they were hoping the pharmacy would "fund" the development of the integration if they wanted to be able to use it.

      That resulted in the project being dropped and a different system being procured fairly soon afterwards.

      On both occasions though, the process was that a few select stores were chosen to run both side by side, with staff entering the details on first one system, and then the other, so that the new system could be checked to be working as it should. Once those few had worked, a number of other stores nationally were brought onto the new system, and again, worked double-entry until the trial results had been confirmed, and only then was the new system rolled out across the rest of the group.

      For a company that had been in such dire trouble, and one that worked with my employer, it was refreshing to see some common sense breaking out!

  2. TDog

    I think I was one of them

    I'd been prescribed a new biological for my Psoriatic Arthritis; Addenbrookes provided the prescription to HAH on 12th November. I heard nothing for a month and chased it up - I was told by HAH

    "The provision of the drug was delayed by a question from HAH which was returned to you asking whether or not I needed a nurse to attend to demonstrate how to inject. They had not received an answer to date - so phoned your pharmacy who quite sensibly said "Ask him."".

    Now that this new information is available I am very suspicious about the excuse I was given. This left me in great discomfort for anther 5 weeks. Nice one HAH.

  3. PeeKay

    I'm sure it's purely coincidence...

    ...that Halcyon Acquisitions Limited became 'person with significant control' on 26th October 2020 (taking 75% control), isn't it?

  4. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "These had not been thoroughly risk assessed and tested..."

    SNAFUBAR then. Who risk assesses or tests anything these days? Both are clearly a waste of time now the customer is your unpaid beta tester.

  5. PTW

    What a wanker

    How on earth does he have the brass neck to say 10,000 missed deliveries between October and December is a "... short-lived problem"?

    1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      Re: What a wanker

      He said short lived, not small.

    2. Korev Silver badge

      Re: What a wanker

      Some medication needs to be taken every few hours or the patient dies - in this case "Short lived" is a very unfortunate phrase...

  6. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

    Just in time supply lines

    One stumble and they rapidly turn into 'far too late.' Insert standard rant about business schools here.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Just in time supply lines

      It's also not helped by the margins on generic drugs[0] being minuscule - quite often generic suppliers find a drug is making a loss and then stop selling it...

      [0] As opposed to the "branded" drugs[1]

      [1] I should mention that my job is supporting the R&D of these drugs

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Just in time supply lines

        On the other hand, "generic" drugs only exist because either there was never a patent or the patent expired, so not really in competition with drugs more recently developed with R&D cost to recover.

      2. Manolo

        Re: Just in time supply lines

        AFAIK, HaH is not in the regular generic drug business.

        They take care of more specialised or niche medications, that may require administration by a nurse, so injections rather than regular tablets.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just in time supply lines

          HAH deliver me Avonex for my MS

          It comes in boxes of 4 jabs to be taken once a week. Delivered in a refrigerated van and popped straight into the fridge. With me, they managed to get onto a 3 week cycle so now the top shelf of my fridge has 14 jabs instead of the 4 to 8 that gives me a month and a buffer.

          Twice I've cancelled 'next months' delivery and they've sent it any way. Next delivery is due by the end of the month - I'm taking bets that it comes even though I've cancelled it again.

          I do the jabs myself - its an epi pen type thing you assemble by screwing the needle on to the end, then sliding up the needle guard (which becomes the safety catch). You have to push it quite hard against your leg before the trigger button on the top will release the spring loaded syringe. Sometimes its utterly painless and others it stings like a bastard.

          Avonex is a shared risk thing - Avonex reduces the likelihood of a relapse, they get paid more for the dose if I don't have a relapse. I think its £250 a dose all the while I'm in remission (don't know why I think that but its a definite number I got from somewhere).

  7. John Robson Silver badge

    I can confirm that it wasn't all their customers...

    But I'd be pretty incensed if my deliveries didn't arrive.

    Ironically I've literally just hung up from HaH phoning me to organise my next delivery.

  8. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    So, all those software devs...

    ...who shove shit out the door, maybe your software DOES affect peoples lives?

  9. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Blame the computer

    OK they fucked up on the IT - negligently by the sound of it. But the other half of this is a total failure, apparently, to take any action- since much of the story is about having too few staff to actually do their job.

    This is not a toffee shop. It's the sort of business where there is a total requirement to provide the service, whatever it takes.

    There is no excuse.

  10. Potemkine! Silver badge

    The truth

    "We find innovative way to solve the retirement cost rising problem and you are still not happy!"

  11. Santa from Exeter

    Sewer Rats are cleaner

    To quote - "In collaboration with the NHS, the issue was swiftly dealt with"

    In other words, we took out patients money under false pretenses and then relied on the underfunded NHS to prevent them from dying.

    Did your company make a nice fat donation to the NHS to cover their additional costs brough about by your fuckup?

    No, thoght not.

    1. my farts clear the room

      Re: Sewer Rats are cleaner

      The majority of patients don't pay for the drugs at all, they also probably don't even get sight of the prescription as its sent electronically to HAH and you are delivered the drugs.

      You don't get the repeat part of the 'script like you would at a high street pharmacy.

      Its all behind the scenes like a hospital pharmacy delivering drugs to a ward. Its easy for everyone to blame each other, but yes someone is making a profit here so they are shaping their staffing to maximise profits not ensuring a minimum performance threshold is preserved.

      They may be contracted to exceed a minimum performance threshold, but they sure weren't being audited against their ability to do so during a business continuity event.

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