‘It would have been unsafe to carry on’, says ULHT chief in letter to patients following cyber attack

The Chief Executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust has thanked patients in the aftermath of a crippling cyber attack, stating safety would have been put at risk had service continued.

The trust was among a number of NHS organisations in the county and worldwide which suffered the affects of a ransomeware attack on IT systems on Friday, May 12.

The malicious virus locked computer files, demanding that a ransom is paid in order to recover data. The attack meant doctors and staff were unable to access patient records, scans, results and blood tests and as a result routine operations and appointments were cancelled for a number of days.

Jan Sobieraj, Chief Executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust has assured members of the public that no data was lost, compromised or affected.

Jan Sobieraj wrote in an open letter to patients: “I want to say a huge thank you to all our patients for their understanding and patience since Friday 12 May 2017 when our services were disrupted due to the international cyber-attack.

“Following the cyber-attack, ULHT took quick action to close down all of our systems. This prevented the spread of the attack and limited the impact. Despite us having around 6,000 devices and servers and over 300 systems linked with local GPs and other trusts, only a handful of devices and servers were actually infected with the virus.

“I would like to reassure all of our patients and staff that none of our data was compromised and no patient data was lost or affected. ULHT has previously installed the Windows patch which has been well documented in the media, and there is no evidence that any particular equipment or software had been especially affected.

“The disruption caused by the cyber-attack has not been easy on our patients, nor on staff. Unfortunately, our decisive action meant we had to cancel many procedures and clinics. This impacted on our patients and their families and will have led to some people being anxious and upset with delays in their care.

“The cyber-attack meant our staff could not access patient records, scans, results and blood tests so it would have been unsafe to carry out routine appointments and operations. For example, with a patient scheduled for a hip replacement, the operating team could not see their previous scans, tests and blood results or any patient notes and so it would not have been safe to carry out the procedure. We had to prioritise those patients who required emergency care. However, we know that we need to reschedule these cancelled appointments and we have already seen some and our staff are now working really hard to rebook the remaining patients as quickly as possible.

“We are also grateful that so many of you stayed away from our A&E departments so our staff could concentrate on the really sick patients in the department.

“I also want to say a huge public thank you to all of our staff who have worked tirelessly since Friday afternoon to get services and IT systems up and running – everyone has been amazing. Many staff, including IT, clinical engineering, operations, emergency planning, admin staff, clinical staff, directors and communications worked late into the night on Friday and all over the weekend to get systems back up and running as quickly as possible. Thank you to all staff for their hard work, support and patience during this difficult time.”