Recovery from cyber attack that cancelled thousands of hospital appointments to take months, NHS admits

A general view of Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital in London (Georgie Gillard/PA) (PA Wire)
A general view of Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital in London (Georgie Gillard/PA) (PA Wire)

It will take months for hospitals to recover from a major cyber attack that cancelled thousands of appointments, the health authorities have admitted.

NHS England has confirmed that from 3 to 9 June, more than 800 planned operations and 700 outpatient appointments were cancelled after pathology services were hit by a ransomware attack on King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

It has now committed to publishing weekly data on the impact of the cyber attack.

The attack crippled hospital services, with hundreds of life-saving operations cancelled, The Independent revealed this week.

Russian cybercriminals are believed to be behind the ransomware hack on the trusts’ pathology service provider, Synnovis.

On Wednesday this publication revealed that Synnovis can only complete 400 blood tests of its usual 10,000 per day for GPs across six London boroughs.

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The incident has forced Synnovis to destroy most of the 8,000 blood samples it has received since the attack and patient appointments will have to be rebooked.

GPs were told this week that all non-critical blood tests would have to be cancelled and that labs would only be able to process clinically critical tests.

On Tuesday The Independent revealed that more than a third of procedures and operations across the two NHS trusts were cancelled in the wake of the attack. These included more than 3,000 non-surgical appointments and hundreds of patients who have been referred for urgent cancer diagnosis.

In a new statement on Thursday, NHS England said: “Synnovis is focused on the technical recovery of the system, with plans in place to begin restoring some functionality in its IT system in the weeks to come. Full technical restoration will take some time, however, and the need to re-book tests and appointments will mean some disruption from the cyber incident will continue to be felt over coming months.”

Professor Ian Abbs, chief executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, and Professor Clive Kay, chief executive of King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said in a statement: “The cyber-attack has had a significant impact on our services, and this is likely to remain the case for some time yet.

“Despite the superb efforts of our staff and support from partners across London to continue caring for patients, we have had to postpone a number of operations and appointments which we are working to reschedule as quickly as possible.”

Some patients from the two trusts are being sent to St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to be treated.