Hospitals in Lincolnshire, England, have cancelled hundreds of operations after being hit with a “major” computer virus.
The Northern Lincolnshire and Google NHS Foundation Trust (NLAG) has announced on its website that a virus infected its systems on October 30, and has taken most of them offline “so we can isolate and destroy it.”
As a result, “all planned operations, outpatient appointments and diagnostic procedures” on Monday and Tuesday have been cancelled.
The BBC reports that the cancelled operations number in the hundreds.
Chemotherapy sessions will still go ahead, as will antenatal clinics.
The decision also won’t affect people already at the hospital: “Inpatients will continue to be cared for and discharged as soon as they are medically fit. Major trauma cases will be diverted to neighbouring hospitals as will high risk women in labour.”
But the scale of it — and the measures being taken to tackle it — make it clear that this is a very serious incident. The exact nature of the “virus” isn’t known, although the Grimsby Telegraph is reporting that it isn’t asking for a ransom, suggesting it isn’t ransomware — malware that encrypts the victim’s files then demands a bounty in order to unlock them.
The paper is also reporting that no patient data has been accessed.
The United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust has also shut down its systems as a “precautionary measure” because it shares clinical IT systems with NLAG, it said on its website. As a result, it is cancelling all appointments on Tuesday “unless there is a clinical reason not to.”
The incident comes as the UK government reiterates an already-announced £1.9 billion investment into cybersecurity, with chancellor Philip Hammond promising that Britain will “strike back” if it comes under cyber-attack.
There’s currently no indication as to who is behind the Lincolnshire attack — or even if it was deliberately targeted or not.
Here’s the full statement from the Trust’s website:
MAJOR INCIDENT – APPOINTMENTS CANCELLED
A virus infected our electronic systems on Sunday October 30 and we have taken the decision, following expert advice, to shut down the majority of our systems so we can isolate and destroy it.
Our main priority is patient safety. A major incident has been called and all planned operations, outpatient appointments and diagnostic procedures have been cancelled for today (Monday) and tomorrow (Tuesday). All patients should presume their appointment/procedure has been cancelled unless they are contacted. Those who turn up will be turned away.
Antenatal clinics and chemotherapy will still go ahead.
Inpatients will continue to be cared for and discharged as soon as they are medically fit. Major trauma cases will be diverted to neighbouring hospitals as will high risk women in labour.
While our emergency departments remain open and are accepting ambulances, we would urge people to only visit if they absolutely need to, i.e it is an accident or emergency. If you are unwell and unsure where to go for treatment call 111 for North Lincs or 01472 256256 for North East Lincs.
We are reviewing the situation on an hourly basis. Our clinicians will continue to see, treat and operate on those patients who would be at significant clinical risk should their treatment be delayed.
Further updates will be posted on the Trust website and social media channels.We would like to apologise to all patients who are affected.
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