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NHS trusts in Suffolk to use emergency WhatsApp groups in event of future cyber attacks

PUBLISHED: 10:11 07 August 2017 | UPDATED: 10:11 07 August 2017

The screen of a hacked NHS computer. Picture: @FENDIFILLE/TWITTER/PA WIRE

The screen of a hacked NHS computer. Picture: @FENDIFILLE/TWITTER/PA WIRE

Social media messenger WhatsApp is set to be used by doctors and CCGs in Suffolk in the event of a future cyber attack, as part of a raft of measures revealed by health bosses.

On May 12 the WannaCry cyber attack ransomware struck more than 200,000 victims globally.

Among the worst struck in this country was the NHS, with 40 trusts being victims of the virus.

No virus was found on any system in Suffolk during the attack, but Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning group (CCG) has said that an action plan to continue keeping Suffolk’s systems safe has already been implemented.

Amanda Lyes, chief corporate services officer for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk CCGs, said: “During the WannaCry cyber-attack in May the virus was not found on any computers in Suffolk, although precautionary measures were taken which did impact the CCGs, primary and community health care providers for a short period.

“The CCGs’ IT team reacted swiftly to the threat and took the appropriate action to ensure the security of the network.

“An action plan is already being implemented to help ensure the continued security of patient data, and continuity of patient care supported by NHS IT services.”

A report was compiled for the CCGs following the attack, which was presented at the recent governing body meeting.

In the report, a catalogue of measures have been planned as a result, including social media messenger WhatsApp groups for CCGs and doctors to be used in a cyber attack emergency, manual packs on hand when a virus strikes and secure alternative email addresses being established.

Contract reviews will also be carried out between GPs and their technology suppliers to make sure all security measures are included.

The report confirmed that the CCG’s IT team had been actively monitoring for upcoming threats, with health chiefs praising the team for reacting “quickly and calmly” to the attack.

However, a number of issues were highlighted, including a lack of early co-ordination between NHS England and the regional teams, while some GP surgeries refused to shut down its systems initially.

The report added there were “some only doing so following a call from the CCG head of IT”.

Last month central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter called for more investment in cyber security to protect patients and their confidential data.

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