Hospitals in Manchester and Wales targeted by hackers

Rumoured cyber attack comes less than a year after WannaCry scandal rocked the NHS

NHS hospitals in Manchester and Wales were last night believed to have been targeted by hackers, with patients warned not to go to A&E as IT experts struggled to regain control of systems.

A ‘major incident’ was reported affecting some of the busiest hospitals in the two areas.

It is not yet known if it has spread further.

As a result, patients have been warned to steer clear of A&E departments for anything other than life-threatening conditions.

Early indications suggest the problem could be caused by cyber criminals, as the NHS was targeted in last year’s crippling WannaCry attack, with IT systems in some areas down for days and a number of appointments and procedures cancelled.

We’ve reached a tipping point where humans can no longer decipher such complexity and solve problems like this without AI intelligence that can pinpoint exactly what the root cause of the problem is

A Welsh Government spokesman said a ‘technical issue’ had affected two data centres in Blaenavon and Cardiff Bay.

It is being dealt with by the NHS Wales Informatics Services, he added.

Manchester Royal Infirmary and the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital were both hit by a ‘network outage’, according to a statement.

Several other sites across central Manchester, including Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and St Mary's Hospital are also understood to be experiencing IT problems.

Health chiefs insist there is not risk to patient safety, but it is not yet known if the problems will affect access to patient notes or records.

The problem follows last year’s cyber attack in which a third of NHS trusts across the country experienced crippling IT problems as hackers demanded ransoms to restore systems.

The attack highlighted major problems within NHS systems, with hospitals routinely found to be running out-of-date systems such as Windows XP and Windows 7, which had not been updated to prevent against hackers.

Computers at almost 600 GP surgeries were also targeted in the attack in May last year.

The challenge is that trying to find the root cause of the problem is like finding a needle in a haystack, and then understanding the impact and how to rollback from it is even more difficult

Speaking to BBH this morning, Dave Anderson, a digital performance expert at Dynatrace, said: “The outage that affected Welsh NHS systems just shows why we need to get better about managing the performance of our digital systems.

“We don’t know what caused the problem, but it’s been mentioned that it was related to national firewalls.

“While systems are now back up and running, the chaos it created shows why we need to move from hours to minutes to resolve problems like this.

“Ultimately, it comes down to our reliance on software and the need for it to work perfectly and that’s difficult in IT environments that are getting more complex by the day.

“The challenge is that trying to find the root cause of the problem is like finding a needle in a haystack, and then understanding the impact and how to rollback from it is even more difficult.

“We’ve reached a tipping point where humans can no longer decipher such complexity and solve problems like this without AI intelligence that can pinpoint exactly what the root cause of the problem is.”

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