Health chiefs in Wales and West Cheshire taken action to guard against cyber threats

Published date: 16 May 2017 |
Published by: Steve Cresswell and Geraint Jones
Read more articles by Steve Cresswell and Geraint Jones


 

HEALTH chiefs in Wales and West Cheshire have taken action to guard against cyber threats.

Services in North Wales were unaffected by the global cyber attack that affected some health trusts across the border. 

The Countess of Chester Hospital is understood to have been largely unaffected, and GP surgeries will be open as usual across West Cheshire – although there might be some issues accessing patient records, prescriptions and appointment-making systems.

A spokesman for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said: “To date, there has been no impact on data or patient systems. Where suspicious activity has been detected it has been dealt with immediately.”

A statement on the BCUHB website said that since Friday IT departments across NHS Wales have been working to protect digital health and care services from a global cyber-attack that has affected 48 trusts in England and thousands of organisations and industries worldwide. 

Digital services in NHS Wales have been unaffected. 

NHS Wales Informatics Service has been co-ordinating the work, liaising closely with the senior management from across NHS Wales to help ensure that clinical staff can continue to use digital solutions to support the delivery of care. 

To continue to protect NHS Wales from disruption, informatics teams have put in place extra security controls, including a block to delete all email received from outside of NHS Wales.

This includes emails from unitary authorities, social services, police, Welsh Government, suppliers, NHS England, educational establishments, ESR notifications and others. 

The statement added that emails sent within NHS Wales have not and will not be deleted, and that additional security controls were being put in place to help prevent further attacks. Staff will not be able to access personal external webmail sites through NHS Wales’ computers and devices, to help prevent any infected files being downloaded into the network. 

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “In Wales, no systems have been impacted and no patient data has been compromised or lost. Suspicious activity has been identified on six computers on part of the NHS network. Our systems prevented the virus activating and the machines were isolated.

“Precautionary measures have been taken to ensure the integrity of the system and we continue to monitor the situation closely.

“We have recently invested in upgrading IT to protect potentially vulnerable NHS Wales systems and all GP systems in Wales are managed and supported centrally, with best practice security controls.

“Additional steps continue to be taken to protect NHS IT systems and we would like to thank NWIS and IT teams across the NHS who have been working tirelessly over the weekend.”

Meanwhile, surgeries across West Cheshire will be open as usual this week following Friday’s cyber-attack.

However, there may be some issues accessing patient records, prescriptions and appointment-making systems.

In a statement on its website, the West Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “GP practices across West Cheshire will be open as usual on Monday (May 15).

“However, many are still bringing their IT and clinical systems back on-line following the cyber attack, which took place on Friday, May 12 and affected many organisations around the world.

“Some practices may not yet have full access to patient records, prescriptions, appointment systems and, in some cases, telephone systems. However, all GP practices will be using well-tested contingency plans to ensure that services can continue to be provided.

“The NHS is asking patients to remember that they can seek help and advice from a range of other sources, such as pharmacies or NHS 111.”

A spokesman for the Countess of Chester Hospital said NHS England was handling enquiries relating to the impact of the cyber attack on trusts.

However, it is understood that the city hospital was largely unaffected and disruption will be minimal.

The national statement issued by NHS England reads: “A number of NHS organisations have reported to NHS Digital that they have been affected by a ransomware attack which is affecting a number of different organisations.

“The investigation is at an early stage but we believe the malware variant is Wanna Decryptor.

”At this stage we do not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed.

“This attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS and is affecting organisations from across a range of sectors.

  • See full story in the Chester Leader

For more news from across the region visit newsnorthwales.co.uk

 

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