GPs and practice management staff across the UK worked over the weekend to reboot computer systems and install updated “patches” to repair damage done by the cyber-attack which hit the NHS on Saturday.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners said GPs and management teams are working hard to provide “‘business as usual’ – or as close to it as possible – to our patients”.
Speaking on Sunday she said: “Indeed, many GPs are in their practices today, trying to reboot computer systems and install updated patches so that the servers aren’t overloaded tomorrow morning.
“Because GP practices do not operate on just one system, there is local variation in the support and advice being offered to GPs, but some clinical commissioning groups have issued guidance and are updating GPs directly via text message.”
The College says it will be issuing its own guidance for practices and patients and its Health Informatics Group is in regular contact with NHS Digital who have said that they are focusing on getting primary care services up and running as normal.
Professor Stokes-Lampard said the College had been told by senior figures at EMIS, which provides the clinical software that many GP practices use for patient data, that EMIS Web is unaffected and access remains available.
“GPs, of course, can still diagnose and treat patients without using computers but we ask our patients to bear with us if routine services such as repeat prescriptions and appointment booking services are slightly disrupted this week.
“In the meantime, we wish to reassure patients that your GP will be there for you as usual if you are taken ill and that you will receive the best possible care from the NHS, despite the current difficulties,” Prof Stokes-Lampard added.
In a statement the Patients Association says that responsibility for the attack, and for any harm that occurs to patients as a result, lies with the criminals who have perpetrated it. But it added:
“We are seeing today that IT security is critical to patient safety. Addressing it effectively and quickly is essential, and requires appropriate investment. In this election period, we must look to our political parties for leadership – now is not the time to be squeamish about the cost of keeping our NHS secure.”
NHS Digital has received no reports of patient data being compromised but it is advising NHS computer users to avoid opening any attachments in emails and social media, not to use USB sticks and to avoid using Google Chrome and use Internet Explorer or Firefox instead.
Where a computer is infected it should be disconnected from the network and a relevant staff member should be contacted. NHS Improvement has also issued guidance.