NHS in England hit by ‘cyber-attack’

The East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust website down

NHS services across England have been hit by IT failure, caused by a large-scale cyber-attack.

Trusts and hospitals in London, Blackburn, Nottingham, Cumbria and Hertfordshire have been affected.

Some GP surgeries have had to shut down phone and IT systems while A&Es have told people not to attend unless it is a real emergency.

NHS Digital said in a statement that it did not have evidence that patient data had been accessed.

It added that the ransomware attack was not “specifically targeted at the NHS” and was affecting other organisations from a range of sectors.

Among those affected is the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust which says it is experiencing problems with computers and phone systems.

It has postponed all non-urgent activity and is asking people not to come to A&E at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage.

IT specialists are working to resolve the problem as quickly as possible, a statement from the trust says.

Also affected is Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust which says it has shut down all of its IT systems following a “secure system attack”.

A GP from a surgery in York said: “We received a call from York CCG [Clinical Commissioning Group] around an hour ago telling us to switch off all of our computers immediately.

“We have since remained open, and are dealing with things that can be dealt with in the meanwhile.”

Meanwhile, Blackpool Hospitals NHS Trust has asked people not to attend A&E unless it was an emergency because of computer issues.

But the NHS in Wales said it had a separate IT system and had not been affected by the cyber-attack.

Analysis: Chris Baraniuk, technology reporter

Software that locks a computer and demands payment before allowing access again – ransomware – is one of the world’s biggest growing cyber-threats.

It certainly looks like that is what has hit the NHS in this case – and one IT firm says 11 of its NHS customers have been affected.

Screenshots shared online, purportedly from NHS staff, show a program demanding $300 (£230) in Bitcoin that looks similar to ransomware known as WannaCryptor or WCry.

There’s no indication of who is behind the attack yet, nor do we know exactly how it infected NHS systems.

But hospitals have been targeted with similar software before – it struck three US hospitals last year.