NewsCWC 2023

Cyber Attack Disrupts Electronic Patient Records, Affects Ambulance Trusts in South England

In a significant cyber security incident, two ambulance trusts in South England, the South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) and the South Western Ambulance Service (SWASFT), have been left without access to electronic patient records. The cyber attack targeted a supplier utilized by both trusts, leading to disruptions in their critical operations. Combined, these trusts serve a vast area in England, covering 12 million people.

SCAS provides ambulance services in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, and Oxfordshire, with non-emergency coverage extending to Surrey and Sussex. On the other hand, SWASFT attends to incidents in Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset, the Isles of Scilly, and Wiltshire.

An NHS spokesperson confirmed the incident and stated that the Cyber Security Operations Centre is actively working with the affected organizations to investigate the matter, in cooperation with law enforcement. Additionally, support is being provided to suppliers to reconnect the affected system.

While SWASFT clarified that the service itself did not experience a cyber attack, it was a supplier they use that was affected. As a result, the main impact on patients might be a slight delay during handover at hospitals, with ambulance crews reverting to traditional methods, such as using pencil and paper.

NHS England also acknowledged that the incident originated from a third-party supplier. Although MailOnline attempted to contact South Central Ambulance Service for further details, no response was received at the time of reporting.

Thankfully, the 999 emergency call system remains unaffected by the cyber attack, ensuring that people can still access emergency services when required.

This incident highlights the growing concerns about cyber security threats in critical sectors like healthcare. In August 2022, a similar ransomware attack targeted an IT firm supplying patient data to multiple NHS trusts and NHS 111 providers in England. The attack led to significant disruptions, as call handlers across the country were locked out of essential administrative software, leaving them to rely on pen and paper.

Cyber security incidents like these underscore the importance of robust cyber defense measures and heightened vigilance in the healthcare sector. Ambulance services play a crucial role in providing timely and life-saving medical attention to patients, and any disruption to their systems can have serious implications for patient care.

As investigations into the incident continue, authorities must work diligently to identify the source of the attack and ensure that necessary measures are taken to prevent such incidents in the future. Cyber security resilience and preparedness must be prioritized to safeguard sensitive patient data and maintain the efficiency and reliability of critical healthcare services.

In conclusion, the cyber attack on two major ambulance trusts in South England has severely impacted their ability to access electronic patient records. Both SCAS and SWASFT are working with the Cyber Security Operations Centre and law enforcement to investigate the incident and restore their systems. While patient care remains a top priority, the disruption highlights the urgency of strengthening cyber defense measures in critical sectors like healthcare. As cyber threats continue to evolve, it is crucial for healthcare organizations to remain vigilant and proactive in protecting sensitive patient data and ensuring the seamless operation of vital medical services.

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