NHS trusts in England have experienced over 1,300 hours – or around 55 days – of downtime as a result of IT outages in the last three years, according to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request.
Enterprise IT firm Intercity Technology sent an FoI request to 143 NHS trusts in England. Of the 80 that responded, 25 (31%) reported they had experienced outages across their IT systems between January 2015 to February 2018.
Of the 25 trusts, 14 identified security breaches as the underlying cause.
In total, trusts reported 18 security breaches over the past three years. This included the WannaCry ransomware attack as well as the Locky and Zepto viruses, which in the most serious cases knocked IT systems offline for as much as two weeks.
One trust – which was not named in the findings – experienced an average of one breach per year, while another revealed an incident in which two hospital wards were knocked offline for two hours, after an unauthorised device was plugged into the network.
Intercity Technology noted that some of the downtime reported by trusts was a result of IT systems being disconnected as a precautionary measure as the WannaCry ransomware spread between NHS trusts in May 2017.
Ian Jackson, chief commercial officer at Intercity Technology said: “NHS trusts across England are currently being pushed to the limit. It’s not surprising that they often don’t have the resources to dedicate 24/7 support to their IT systems, and the majority of these breaches could be an unfortunate consequence of this.
“Technology has proven to help facilitate the provision of care within the NHS, boost efficiencies and alleviate some of the strain on the system. However, if the benefits are to outweigh the potential risks, it’s important to ensure that there are sufficient resources, whether in-house or external, to continuously monitor the network and address any issues before they impact daily activity.”
In January, NHS trusts in Wales and Manchester suffered major network outages, the latter of which was caused by a glitch at two NHS Wales data centres.