PATIENTS had to be sent elsewhere when a hospital trust was forced to declare a major incident after its IT system crashed.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust lost access to its email, a number of clinical networks and its staff internet system for five hours.

An internal incident was declared as the trust, which runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath among others, battled to get the IT system up and running again.

Chief executive Matthew Kershaw said the situation had been “extremely challenging” and had a very significant impact on the trust’s ability to run the hospitals in the normal way.

Declaring a major incident meant patients being brought in by ambulance had to be diverted to neighbouring hospitals instead to give the trust a chance to sort the problem out.

A trust spokeswoman said: “We took prompt action to ensure the impact on patients was absolutely minimal.

“We arranged for patients incoming by ambulance to be taken to other appropriate hospitals, although in reality less than five patients were affected by this divert.

“Patients who were already in hospital would not have known anything was happening as the clinical systems were only inaccessible for a relatively short amount of time and other systems were used until normal IT service was resumed.”

The incident, which happened on Tuesday afternoon and evening, was revealed by Mr Kershaw in his weekly message to staff.

He said: “Our IT infrastructure is massively complex and a huge amount of time, thought and expense goes into ensuring that one problem does not mean the system fails – it is too important for that.

“In this case the problem could not be predicted or prevented, it just happened, so we need to work out why to help ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Mr Kershaw said the IT team worked around the clock to isolate the reason for the crash and believe they have now discovered the problem.

He said: “My enormous thanks to everyone directly involved for their hard work and commitment to resolving this incident as quickly as possible.”