NHS cyber attack disruption continues as GPs work through weekend

GP practices worked through the weekend to restore computer systems and install software patches to boost IT security after the cyber attack that shut down NHS services across the country from Friday.

GPonline reported on Friday that the UK's largest GP IT systems supplier EMIS had reported that there was no evidence to suggest patient data had been compromised in its systems. System supplier TPP also reported that there was 'no evidence to suggest that SystmOne or SystmOnline have been affected'.

However, practices in many areas have been forced to operate without access to IT systems after switching systems off to protect them against the cyber attack, understood to have been triggered by a form of malware named by NHS Digital as 'Wanna Decryptor'.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said GPs and practice teams were 'doing whatever is within our power locally to minimise disruption' to ensure that services were as close as possible to 'business as usual' on Monday.

NHS cyber attack

Many GPs were in their practices on Sunday 'trying to reboot computer systems and install updated software to avoid overloading servers at the start of the week, she added.

Professor Stokes-Lampard said: 'Because GP practices do not operate on just one system, there is local variation  in the support and advice being offered to GPs, but some CCGs have issued guidance and are updating GPs directly via text message.'

The college is issuing guidance for practices and staying in close contact with both NHS Digital and IT systems suppliers, she added. NHS Digital has also issued technical advice on how to install software patches to improve cyber security for at-risk NHS organisations.

A statement from NHS England advised: 'Patients with GP appointments scheduled should attend for their appointment unless they have been contacted by their GP and told not to do so. Your GP practice will be open and working as normal during at this time.

GP access

'However, you may experience some difficulties contacting the surgery while telephone systems are being reconnected. Appointments may be slower than usual, as some surgeries will be using paper based records whilst electronic systems are switched back on.'

Professor Stokes-Lampard added: 'GPs, of course, can still diagnose and treat patients without using computers but we ask our patients to bear with us if routine services such as repeat prescriptions and appointment booking services are slightly disrupted this week.

'In the meantime, we wish to reassure patients that your GP will be there for you as usual if you are taken ill and that you will receive the best possible care from the NHS, despite the current difficulties.'

BMA council chair Dr Mark Porter said: 'This cyber-attack on NHS information systems is extremely worrying for patients and the doctors treating them. There have been reports of hospital doctors and GPs unable to access patients’ medical records, appointment booking systems and in some cases having to resort to pen and paper.

'NHS staff are working extremely hard to provide the best possible patient care, and we hope NHS Digital are able to resolve these problems as soon as possible. We need to quickly establish what went wrong to prevent this happening again and questions must also asked about whether inadequate investment in NHS information systems has left it vulnerable to such an attack.'

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