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Ransomware Attack Led to 1500 Cancelled Appointments and Medical Operations

When a Ransomware attack becomes life-threatening
Martin Clauss
Martin Clauss
Beeble Team member
June 17, 2024
Ransomware Attack Led to 1500 Cancelled Appointments and Medical Operations

Total figure is likely to be even higher

Over 800 planned operations and 700 outpatient appointments had to be rearranged in the first week after a critical ransomware attack on an London NHS supplier earlier this month, the health service has revealed, reports Infosecurity Magazine.

NHS England said the figure relates to the two most affected Trusts — King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust — and only for June 3-9, so the total figure for cancelled operations is likely to be even higher.

In an effort to reduce the impact on patients, Trusts have added extra weekend clinics, and are working with other hospitals to ensure patients needing time-sensitive care can receive it elsewhere. Patients with planned appointments are urged to turn up as normal, unless they receive information to the contrary via text, phone or letter.

Full technical restoration will take months

The ransomware attack by the Russian Qilin group took out pathology services provider Synnovis, which processes blood tests for a large number of NHS clients in the south-east of the country.

The NHS said it is working on ways to increase the number of blood tests it can process per day, including by using other pathology service providers.

NHS England claimed Synnovis is planning to restore some IT functionality “in the weeks to come,” but warned that “full technical restoration” would take longer, with disruption to tests likely to be felt for “months.”

The health service has already been forced to appeal for blood donors and volunteers in the wake of the incident — potentially the most disruptive to hit the NHS since WannaCry in 2017.

“While staff are working round the clock to mitigate the impact and Synnovis is working to recover its IT system, we expect disruption to be felt for some time,” admitted NHS London medical director, Chris Streather.

“Sites impacted are continuing to prioritise the most urgent care, so please use services in the normal way by dialling 999 in an emergency and otherwise use NHS 111 through the NHS App, online or on the phone. If you have not heard from your healthcare provider, please attend appointments as normal.”