NHS 111 crippled by major cyber attack as staff resort to ‘pens and paper’

Security services are investigating a major cyberattack on the NHS 111 system that has left patients struggling to get urgent appointments and emergency calls.

NHS 111 workers across the country have been forced to use pens and paper after a key system was shut down by hackers feared would be linked to a hostile state.

The public have been told to expect delays when calling the helpline as NHS sources warned the disruption could push patients into congested accident and emergency departments over the weekend. Officials believe the outage will last until Tuesday at the earliest.

Hackers targeted Advanced, a company that provides software for 85 per cent of NHS 111 services. The company’s Adastra system enables call workers to dispatch ambulances, book urgent after-hours appointments, and fulfill emergency prescriptions.

More than 1,000 care homes using the company’s Caresys software have also been affected – along with mental health services across the NHS using its records management system.

An NHS source said: “At the moment call processing and response times are holding up but there is concern this situation could change over the weekend and we could see a deterioration.

“Cases where an ambulance is needed will be prioritized.”

NHS 111 call handlers have been instructed to use an alternative system for sending ambulances, the source added.

The National Cyber ​​Security Center said it is working with Advanced to investigate the cause.

Cyber ​​Attacks “Used by Adversary States”

It comes after the international intelligence alliance Five Eyes – made up of the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States – warned of the risk of state-sponsored cyber attacks coordinated from Moscow after Britain responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and targeted critical organizations including the NHS, nuclear power stations and parts of the public service.

There is said to have been intelligence information suggesting that hackers within the Russian government were attempting to engage in “malicious cyber activities” in response to the “unprecedented economic sanctions” imposed on Moscow. All NHS trusts were warned in March to strengthen their cybersecurity systems and ensure they have backups.

Bob Seely, a Conservative MP on the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “It is undoubtedly true that cyberwarfare is one of the tools of modern full-spectrum hybrid conflict.

“It is used by opposing states, including Russia, and other states like China.

“This attack could be criminal gangs acting with the tacit support of the Russian state, or it could be the Russian state itself.

“Considering that we’re one of Ukraine’s biggest supporters, it won’t be exactly unexpected when it’s the Russians.”

The outage has left NHS 111 staff “working on paper” and “negatively impacting” response times, according to a letter sent to London GPs by NHS bosses.

The letter to GPs, seen by Pulse, said call attendants cannot book patients directly for appointments and asked GPs to “manage calls where possible”.

Direct booking for call agents at other services has been discontinued and staff have been told to try making them by phone or email instead.

The Welsh Ambulance Service said the “major outage” has affected all four nations and it could take longer for 111 calls to be answered over the weekend. NHS 111 crippled by major cyber attack as staff resort to ‘pens and paper’

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