Troops Wrongly Prescribed Damaging Drugs Before Deployment due to Failures in IT System, Senior Doctor Warns
Troops preparing to deploy overseas are being wrongly prescribed damaging anti-malarial drugs due to failures in the Ministry of Defence’s medical IT system, senior army doctors have warned.
Medics are frequently unable to access soldiers’ patient histories and end up handing out inappropriate drugs such as lariam, or prescribing medicines meant for other patients, according to the former head of Britain’s main military hospital in Afghanistan.
Colonel Glynn Evans said yesterday the Defence Medical Information Capability Programme (DMICP) made it impossible to provide safe and timely treatment to armed forces members and their families.
He warned the slow pace of the software means military doctors are unable to follow the strict criteria for choosing certain drugs in the rushed hours before a deployment.
The Army apologised last year for ignoring precautions for prescribing lariam in the case of thousands of troops.
The drug has been shown to cause depression, suicidal thoughts and psychosis.
The British Medical Association yesterday called on the MoD to urgently improve the system to prevent its “frequent software crashes or total loss of IT”.
Chair of the body’s Armed Forces Committee and an NHS anaesthetist, Colonel Evans said: “We’re having to treat real patients in real time and the system cannot keep up with us.”
“Even to print a prescription – it has to go such a convoluted route that it can take 30 minutes to come out, maybe from a printer in a different room.
“You then have the difficulty of the right prescription getting to the right patient.”
But he said the most damaging effect of the faults in DMICP was an inability to bring up soldiers’ medical history as they prepare for emergency deployments.
“If you prescribe anti-malarials without following the proper procedure you may end up prescribing them to someone who turns out shouldn’t have had it – that is happening,” he said.
DMICP, which is provided by Canadian-owned multinational CGI, has been in use by the MoD for more than a decade.
It is supposed to act as a comprehensive system to record patient consultations, access their histories and issue prescriptions for armed forces and other MoD personnel and their families across the world.
Publicity on the CGI website describes the system as “a success story”, allowing patients “faster, more accurate treatment”.
However, the motion passed on Monday by the BMA annual congress was affecting patient safety and failing to integrate with NHS IT systems.