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Government shuts down GP appraisal website over hacker fears

By Gareth Iacobucci

The GPC has warned that a 'large number' of GPs face 'real disruption' after the Government's NHS Appraisal Toolkit website was taken offline due to fears it is vulnerable to hackers.

The site, a key resource for GPs in helping them to complete appraisals, has been withdrawn for three weeks after a routine security check revealed that the system was not ‘sufficiently robust to withstand modern-day hacking'.

The Government insisted that there was ‘no evidence of any breach of security', but said the system needed to be updated to ensure that this remained the case.

The move - made in agreement with the BMA and the RCGP - is set to cause huge disruption to thousands of GPs during the busiest time of year for organising their appraisals.

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘As part of a routine security check it has been discovered that certain aspects of the electronic NHS Appraisal toolkit, established nine years ago, are not sufficiently robust to withstand modern day hacking. Ministers have immediately instructed that the website is taken offline until the supplier, SCHIN, can address these potential vulnerabilities.'

‘The Department is aware that some of the 27,000 active users of the service will have annual appraisals planned during the period that the system will be suspended and that this will be a matter of concern to them.'

‘However, after consulting with the BMA and the RCGP, there was a shared concern to ensure that any level of security risk was dealt with a robustly and as quickly as possible.'

They added: ‘There is no evidence of any security breach or loss of data. Given the importance of preserving confidentiality of staff and patient information, it is not acceptable to take any risks.'

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'This is going to cause real disruption for large number of GPs whose appraisals are scheduled in the next few weeks.'

'We need to ensure that GPs who are affected are able to change their appraisal dates and it may mean not until the next financial year.'

He added: 'We need to ensure GPs who have commited locum cover are not left out of pocket.'

The Department of Health has been forced to close down the NHS Appraisals Toolkit website as a precaution