GP practices across England have been affected by what appears to be a major cyber attack on the NHS computer system.
Pulse understands that some GP practices have had to shut down, while hospital staff found themselves unable to work.
Dr George Farrelly, a GP in East London, said his practice did not have access to patient records and could not prescribe medicines.
Dr Farrelly, who works at the Tredegar practice in Tower Hamlets, said his practice had ‘heard something might happen’ earlier in the day so had printed the appointment list.
He said: ‘I am going to see my patients but of course we cannot access any records and can’t prescribe.’
Meanwhile Dr Neil Paul, a GP in Cheshire, sent Pulse a computer screenshot of the error message caused by the attack, which is requesting $300 worth of Bitcoin, the online currency.
He told Pulse that in his area around ‘half’ of practices were affected by the attack, including some cases of ‘whole practices’ being forced to shut down.
The Wingate Medical Centre in Liverpool also tweeted that it was unable to work.
We have lost EMIS, can’t work! Major incident. #nhscyberattack in progress.
— WingateMedicalCentre (@WingateMedical) May 12, 2017
And NHS Liverpool CCG warned patients to only contact their GP practice in an emergency.
Please be aware the NHS is experiencing serious IT problems today. Please only contact your GP surgery or hospital in a genuine emergency.
— NHS Liverpool CCG (@liverpoolccg) May 12, 2017
NHS Digital said that ‘a number of NHS organisations have reported… that they have been affected by a ransomware attack’.
A spokesperson said: ‘The investigation is at an early stage but we believe the malware variant is Wanna Decryptor.
‘At this stage we do not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed. We will continue to work with affected organisations to confirm this.
‘NHS Digital is working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre, the Department of Health and NHS England to support affected organisations, ensure patient safety is protected and to recommend appropriate mitigations.’
According to NHS Digital, the attack was ‘not specifically targeted at the NHS and is affecting organisations from across a range of sectors’.
The spokesperson added: ‘Our focus is on supporting organisations to manage the incident swiftly and decisively, but we will continue to communicate with NHS colleagues and will share more information as it becomes available.’