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CCGs to set up WhatsApp group with GP practices in case of another NHS hack

Practices in Suffolk plan to keep communication lines open using a mobile chat app in the event of another cybersecurity attack on the NHS. 

Practice managers and commissioners in NHS West Suffolk CCG and NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG will be asked to join WhatsApp groups to keep in contact with each other.

The emergency measure comes in response to a cybersecurity attack on the NHS in May, which shut many practices for days.

In a board paper, the CCGs said that while the cyber attack did not directly affect Suffolk practices, ‘the necessary precautionary methods taken to secure the network did cause significant disruption to Suffolk practices’.

The board paper adds that the Whatsapp groups, which will be set up from September 2017, will be used to ‘exchange information’ rather than for an initial notification of an attack.

Dr Simon Jones, chief executive of Suffolk LMC, said: ‘Given the risks of cyberattacks, you can’t guarantee that you’re always going to be able to use your normal channels of communication, so I think any resilience and contingency is definitely a good plan.’ 

GPs have previously been warned against using chat applications like Whatsapp or Snapchat to share clinical information due to ‘the risk of data getting into the wrong hands’.