NHS hospitals in England are having to redirect patients following a large-scale crippling cyber-attack which has taken control of IT systems.
The IT systems of numerous NHS sites across England have been simultaneously hit with a large-scale cyber attack leaving medical staff without access to essential patient records.
Hospitals are activating their major incident plans and reportedly shutting down IT systems and internet access while the threat is contained.
GCHQ, NHS Digital and the National Crime Agency are working together to defend against the attack and restore IT access.
Affected computers are displaying a pop-up message demanding a bitcoin ransom in exchange for access to the PCs and ultimately patient records.
Hospitals currently known to be effected are those run by; East and North Hertfordshire NHS trust, Barts Health in London, Essex Partnership university NHS trusts, the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, Southport and Ormskirk hospital NHS trust and Blackpool teaching hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
One NHS IT worker told the Guardian: “At approximately 12.30pm we experienced a problem with our email servers crashing. Following this a lot of our clinical systems and patient systems were reported to have gone down”.
It was only earlier this year that the data of hundreds of NHS staff in Scotland was compromised in a cyber attack.
It is unknown at this time if any patient information has been compromised. NHS England said it was aware of the problem and would release more details soon.
NHS trusts pressuring staff to help meet vaccination targets
Front-line staff are reporting that NHS trusts are pressuring staff into receiving the influenza vaccine in order to achieve governmental targets.
Front-line NHS staff claim they are getting ever-increasing pressure to receive the seasonal influenza vaccine as cash-strapped NHS trusts strive to hit the ‘Flu Fighter’ CQUIN, which provides significant financial incentives for trusts who vaccinate a proportion of their staff.
This news follows last weeks announcement that NHS England will write to all healthcare workers reminding them of their “professional duty” to receive the seasonal influenza vaccine.
One member of staff, who wishes to remain anonymous, claims she was forced to sign a ‘Declination of Influenza Vaccine‘ document by their NHS Trust which states refusal of the vaccine may have ‘life-threatening’ consequences and asks for the reason for refusal.
A spokesperson for NursingNotes said;
“While receiving the vaccine is an important part of infection control, like any patient, staff must provide informed consent and have a right to refuse the vaccination”.
A spokesperson for the RCN said:
“We encourage all nursing staff to have the vaccine. It plays an important part in infection control and preventing sickness absence”.
The NHS Employers ‘Flu Fighter’ campaign is part of an initiative to improve the health and wellbeing of NHS employees.
Patients could be banned from A&E unless a healthcare professional refers them
The “talk before you walk” scheme could see patients barred from using A&E without first seeking healthcare advice elsewhere.
Under “talk before you walk” proposals, patients would need to gain approval from either their GP or the NHS 111 advice line before self-presenting to an accident and emergency department and could be turned away without this.
The scheme is intended to improve compliance of the 4-hour target by sign-posting patients to more appropriate services.
The news comes as health services prepare, for what many experts claim will be, the “worst winter on record” for emergency care services.
Dr Helen Thomas, National Medical Advisor for Integrated Urgent Care at NHS England, said:
“Jeremy Hunt has mentioned to some of my colleagues, maybe we should have a ‘talk before you walk’ and we may well pilot that.
“I think it’s been done in other countries where they’ve actually said you can’t come to the emergency department until you’ve talked on referral or you have to have that sort of docket that you’re given by having talked down the phone and being told you should come in.”
But the British Medical Association (BMA) said forcing ill patients to go through an extra layer of bureaucracy would cause further delays and could compromise emergency care pathways.
A spokesman for NHS England said there were no current plans to go ahead with the scheme.
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