NHS 111 services have been targeted by cyber hackers, leaving staff “working on paper” and informed patients to expect delays.
The system that allows call handlers to dispatch ambulances, make urgent appointments outside of office hours or fulfill emergency prescriptions has failed.
The company behind the system, Advanced, confirmed late on Friday that it had lost service on several of its systems as a result of a cyber attack.
The outage left staff “working on paper” and was “negatively affecting” response times, according to a letter sent to London doctors on Thursday.
The Welsh Ambulance service said it was a “major disruption” that affected all four nations. A business continuity incident has been declared.
The service told patients it could take longer for calls to be answered over the weekend.
‘There is no estimated arrival date’
Advanced’s Adstra software is used by 85% of NHS 111 services and affects 40 million patients, according to its website.
The letter sent to GPs on Thursday, seen by Pulse, an online magazine for GPs, said call handlers were left unable to book patients directly at GP appointments and GPs were asked to “manage calls whenever possible.” ” and not direct patients to the doctor. service.
“A solution is urgently being worked out by Adastra, however there is no ETA for this,” the letter read.
An NHS spokesperson said patients are still encouraged to call 111 and will be able to get in touch with staff.
The team is trying to find solutions to the problem, it is understood, including using internal NHS emails.
Advanced posted an update on its status page that the outage was declared a “priority 1 incident” and deployed a “highly experienced” team, according to reports.
Until investigations are carried out, all services have been taken offline, according to the message. Other services run by Advanced were also affected, including Carenotes, an electronic patient record system used by more than 40,000 physicians.
A source told tech news website The Register that the systems won’t be back online “until Tuesday at the earliest.”
‘Data protection is paramount’
Simon Short, COO of Advanced, said: “A security issue was identified yesterday which resulted in loss of service on infrastructure hosting products used by our healthcare and healthcare customers.
“We can confirm that the incident is related to a cyber attack and, as a precaution, we have immediately isolated all of our healthcare and care environments. This occurred at approximately 7am on August 4, 2022. We can also confirm that this action contained the attack and no other issues were detected.
“The early intervention of our incident response team contained this issue on a small number of servers that represented 2% of our healthcare and care infrastructure. The protection of services and data is paramount in the actions we have and are carrying out.
“We continue to work with the NHS and health and assistance bodies, as well as our technology and safety partners focused on recovering all systems over the weekend and early next week. In the meantime, these NHS-affected services will continue to operate [using contingency].”
An NHS spokesperson said: “NHS 111 services are still available for patients who are unwell but as always if it is an emergency call 999.
“There is currently minimal disruption and the NHS will continue to monitor the situation as they work with Advanced to resolve their software system as quickly as possible – tested and proven contingency plans are in place for local areas using this service.”