Public Services > Healthcare

NHS Digital offers cyber support to virus-struck trust

Neil Merrett Published 02 November 2016

North Lincolnshire and Goole hospital body said it has expanded the number of services it able to offer patients after its systems were brought down by a virus over the weekend


NHS Digital has moved to offer support to North Lincolnshire and Goole (NLaG) NHS Foundation Trust as it continues to experience disruption across its three sites resulting from a virus that has infected its systems.

Serving as the national provider of information, data and IT systems for commissioners and clinicians working across health and social care, NHS Digital said it had been made aware of the difficulties experienced by the trust across several sites. 

“We have made contact with NLaG to offer support; they remain data controllers and they have informed us that they are taking steps to resolve the situation. We will continue to offer support and guidance as requested,” said the organisation.

NHS Digital also offers assurance services and an e-learning portal as part of efforts to assist care organisations in being more resilient to potential attacks as part of its Care Computer Emergency Response Team (CareCERT) programme that is in the process of being expanded.

However, it was not known if this existing cyber security focus may be revised following the virus issues at NLAG.

"This issue highlights the fact that there are threats to data security within health and care, as with any other sector. We remain committed to supporting the protection of data with the highest possible security standards, high levels of security expertise from the centre and appropriate training and awareness of the risks for all staff,” said a spokesperson for NHS Digital.

As it continues to try and investigate the virus within its systems, North Lincolnshire and Goole trust said that it would continue to cancel planned operations, outpatient appointments and diagnostic procedures over the course of today – albeit it with some exceptions.

The care organisation said it would be providing audiology, physiological measurements, antenatal, gynaecology and immunology services, among a number of other restored functions.

It will also be providing cardiothoracic and vascular services with support from visiting consultants from Hull.

Echoing advice it gave yesterday, NLAG said that patients with appointments in other departments, including surgery, should assume their treatments will be cancelled and rescheduled unless otherwise informed.

“Inpatients will continue to be cared for and discharged as soon as they are medically fit,” said the organisation in a statement. “Major trauma cases will continue to be diverted to neighbouring hospitals as will high risk women in labour. Our clinicians will continue to see, treat and operate on those patients who would be at significant clinical risk should their treatment be delayed.”

The difficulties afflicting the trust’s system serve as a stark reminder of the threat to public sector bodies in a week where central government has committed to stepping up the resilience of key service providers against cyber threats across the country.

On Tuesday (November 1), Chancellor Philip Hammond set out an updated five year National Cyber Security Strategy valued at £1.9bnm with the aim of supporting workforce training, automated defences and capabilities to engage in cyber attacks itself.

Among wider commitments of the plan will be funding for a ‘Cyber Retraining Academy’ that will aim to provide a more intensive free training to select individuals for individuals such as nurses and soldiers around online security expertise.  This will include dealing with malicious code.

Matt Hancock, the minister of state for digital and culture, would look to fast track new talent to meet needs for more cyber resilient operations.

“This new academy will give students the skills the nation needs to fight cyber-attacks and help us achieve our ambition of making the UK the safest place to live and do business online,” he said.

Related articles:

Chancellor sets out £1.9bn cyber security strategy update

Virus brings down Northern Lincolnshire and Goole hospital systems

NHS Digital to expand CareCERT cyber security focus

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