NHS hospitals hit by 'major' cyberattack with staff told to prioritise urgent care

London hospital signage

A range of hospitals across London have been targeted by the attacks

PA/Google/Royal Brompton Hospital
James Saunders

By James Saunders


Published: 04/06/2024

- 13:21

Updated: 04/06/2024

- 16:18

The situation at King's College Hospital is 'awful', GB News has been told, with doctors unable to access pathology information and surgeries delayed

Additional reporting by Charlie Peters

Patients seeking urgent healthcare at NHS hospitals in London have been redirected elsewhere after a "major" cyber-attack crippled facilities at the last minute.

A critical incident spanning facilities run by the Guy's and St Thomas' Trust and King's College Hospital meant Britons in need of vital treatment couldn't receive it - in particular, those in need of blood transfusions, after the cyber-attack knocked out pathology labs' IT systems connected to NHS-contracted firm Synnovis.


The Guy's and St Thomas'-run Royal Brompton and Harefield has reportedly been forced into cancelling potentially life-saving transplants, with the Evelina London Children's Hospital also affected by the attack.

The cyber-attack reportedly began yesterday, but is now affecting hospitals across the capital.

London hospital signageA range of hospitals across London have been targeted by the attacksPA/Google/Royal Brompton Hospital

The situation at King's College Hospital - which is "very much affected" by reports of an IT failure - is "awful", GB News has been told, with doctors unable to access pathology information and surgeries delayed, according to a senior surgeon at the hospital in Camberwell, South London.

They added that several surgeries booked for today have been cancelled, even those with patients prepped to go into theatre.

They were unable to give an estimate on the number of procedures that would be cancelled at the hospital - though they indicated that it would be a significant number and that there was no indication whether any procedures would be conducted later today.

A number of senior sources have told the Health Service Journal (HSJ) that the IT system has been the victim of a ransomware attack.

Kailyn Johnson, Cyber Intelligence and Geopolitical Risk Lead at security firm Sibylline, told GB News: "Ransomware attacks on the healthcare industry are extremely common.

"The scope and impact it has had on third party providers and their downstream customers is worrying but it’s not an abnormal target.

"A few months ago, a hospital in Cannes suffered a ransomware attack, they had to revert back to pen and paper, transferring non-urgent care in the area.

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St Thomas' Hospital sign

Guy's and St Thomas' staff were told of the disruption via email

PA

"Other ransomware attacks occurred earlier last year in a Madrid hospital, where a similar outcome occurred and medical services were diverted.

"The healthcare sector is a very attractive target for ransomware operations, typically groups get involved in major operations for profit.

"Hospitals are attractive because there is a greater chance of a payout.

"Third-party targets are attractive for both state actors and profit-motivated actors as they provide access to additional organisations to potentially attack. We saw this a few weeks ago with the Ministry of Defence data breach, which was via a third-party service provider.

“With ransomware, it typically is utilised by cyber criminals, but state-sponsored actors have been observed using ransomware. Last week there was a report of a North Korean ransomware operation. This attack is most likely financially motivated."

One person said gaining access to pathology results could take "weeks, not days".

Fingers on laptop keyboard

The cyber-attack reportedly hit systems run by NHS-contracted IT firm Synnovis (file photo)

PA

An email sent to hospital staff at Guy's and St Thomas' read: "Our pathology partner Synnovis experienced a major IT incident earlier today, which is ongoing.

"This incident is also affecting King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and primary care across South East London.

"This is having a major impact on the delivery of our services, with blood transfusions being particularly affected.

"Some activity has already been cancelled or redirected to other providers at short notice as we prioritise the clinical work that we are able to safely carry out.

"I recognise how upsetting this is for patients and families whose care has been affected, and how difficult and frustrating this is for you all. I am very sorry for the disruption this is causing.

"An incident response structure has been stood up, with colleagues from across the Trust meeting regularly to assess the situation and put contingency plans into place.

"While we do not yet know all the details or how long this issue will take to resolve we will keep you updated through the usual routes, including through the clinical alert system."

GB News has approached NHS England and the Department for Health and Social Care for comment.

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