NHS crisis: Criminals issue ‘demands’ after accessing data – staff without patient records

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Patients’ data may now be in the hands of cyber criminals after the NHS’ software system supporting the 111 helpline, as well as electronic records, were hacked last week. The attack, which forced the system to shut down, has now raised the alarm for the NHS IT supplier as it is reportedly under pressure from criminals making demands. The attack has also meant that thousands of hospital staff are unable to access patients’ notes and histories, and health chiefs warned this could persist for three weeks.

But if the criminals’ demands are not met, patients’ data could potentially get held hostage for longer unless cyber security experts resolve the issue.

This raises the risks of misdiagnosis and medication errors, which could prove fatal.

NHS 111 staff have had to resort to using pen and paper as the electronic system, which is usually used to help to dispatch ambulances and book urgent out-of-hours appointments, remains in tatters.

The company responsible for operating the system is unable to confirm when the outage will end, although this may now depend on how the criminals wish to proceed.


Criminals may have access to NHS patients’ data after a cyber attack (Image: Getty )


Hackers are reportedly making demands (Image: Getty )

Carenotes, one of the hacked systems, is one of the most commonly used systems by NHS mental health trusts. 

Mental health trust leaders have now warned that mental health patients face a “desperate” situation as the criminals risk holding them up from receiving effective treatment. 

Hospital staff have been urged to ready themselves for major disruption which could last for around three weeks or possibly longer.

In an email to NHS staff, Nick Broughton, the chief executive of the Oxford Health NHS foundation trust, wrote: “The cyberattack targeted systems used to refer patients for care, including ambulances being dispatched, out-of-hours appointment bookings, triage, out-of-hours care, emergency prescriptions and safety alerts.

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The public has been urged to keep ringing 999 in emergencies and carry on using the NHS as normal (Image: Getty )

“It also targeted the finance system used by the trust.

“We have now been advised that we should prepare for a system outage that could continue for two weeks for Adastra and possibly longer than three weeks for Carenotes.”

The email also warned that a “huge amount of work” will need to be done to resolve the issue.

It continued: “Recovery from this cyberattack will take a huge amount of work and effort and plans are being drawn up to manage this.”

While some pointed the finger at Russia for the attack, which is known to have committed attacks of this nature before, experts have said it was more likely to have been a criminal gang. 

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Sunak has pledged to fix the backlog (Image: Getty )

But the public has been urged to carry on using the NHS as normal, ringing 999 in emergencies.

An NHS director said: “The whole thing is down. It’s really alarming…we’re carrying a lot of risk as a result of it because you can’t get records and details of assessments, prescribing, key observations, medical mental health act observations.

“You can’t see any of it…staff are going to have to write everything down and input it later.”

“There is increased risk to patients. We’re finding it hard to discharge people, for example to housing providers, because we can’t access records.”

Liz Truss

Liz Truss has pledged to cut National Insurance (Image: Getty )

This comes as the NHS is already crippled by a huge backlog issue.

More than six million people are said to be on waitlist for elective surgeries which they were not able to get during the pandemic as they were not considered essential, despite being crucial for people’s health.

The next Prime Minister, be it Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss, has been urged to get a grip of this crisis and produce a clear policy on how to tackle it.

Mr Sunak has called the issue a national emergency and has pledged to eliminate one-year waiting times by September 2024.

He said: “We need a fundamentally different approach.

“We will take the best of our Covid response and apply those lessons to clearing the massive backlog in the NHS.”


Meanwhile, Ms Truss has said she is “completely committed” to current Government promises for NHS spending.

But she also wants to cut National Insurance tax, which is designed to pay for fixing the backlog and for reforms to social care.

In an open letter to both leadership contenders, the NHS Confederation, which represents hospital trusts, accused them of failing to recognise the “huge pressures” the health system is under.

Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “We need both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss to demonstrate a heavy dose of realism about the state of the NHS and the promise of an open, frank and honest conversation about what this means.

“To truly level with the public they must acknowledge that this means crumbling buildings and ill-equipped outdated estate, 105,000 NHS staff and 165,000 social care vacancies at the last count, and a social care system in desperate need of repair and very far from being fixed as the current prime minister would have us believe.”