THE security services are probing a cyber attack that ‘crippled’ NHS 111.
It’s feared a hostile foreign power could have targeted the system, leaving patients struggling to get urgent appointments and ambulances.
Staff have been reduced to using pen and paper and have told patients to expect delays with services such as dispatching ambulances, booking patients out-of-hours urgent appointments, and fulfilling emergency prescriptions.
The firm behind the system, Advanced, confirmed a number of its systems had crashed as a result of a cyber attack.
An NHS spokesman said patients are still encouraged to call 111 and they will be able to get through to staff.
GPS have been told to “manage calls where possible” and not direct patients to the service, but there is no ETA for when the problem will be fixed.
The National Cyber Security Centre said it was working with Advanced to investigate the cause of the breakdown.
It comes after the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, consisting of Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US, warned of the risk of state-sponsored cyber attacks co-ordinated from Moscow targeting critical organisations including the NHS, nuclear power stations and parts of the Civil Service.
There was said to be intelligence suggesting hackers within the Russian government were seeking to engage in “malicious cyber activity” in response to the “unprecedented economic sanctions” imposed on Moscow over the Ukraine war.
All NHS trusts were warned in March to shore up their cyber security systems and ensure they had backups in place.
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Simon Short, chief operating officer of Advanced, said: “A security issue was identified yesterday, which resulted in loss of service on infrastructure hosting products used by our health and care customers.
“We can confirm that the incident is related to a cyber attack and as a precaution, we immediately isolated all our health and care environments.
“This occurred at approximately 7am on August 4, 2022. We can also confirm that this action contained the attack and no further issues have been detected.”
An NHS spokesman said: “NHS 111 services are still available for patients who are unwell, but as ever if it is an emergency please call 999.
“There is currently minimal disruption and the NHS will continue to monitor the situation as it works with Advanced to resolve their software system as quickly as possible – tried and tested contingency plans are in place for local areas who use this service.”