Junior doctors break strike to assist at sites hit by cyber attack

  • 28 June 2024
Junior doctors break strike to assist at sites hit by cyber attack

Some junior doctors in London have been permitted to break the strike to assist at sites affected by the cyber attack on pathology system provider Synnovis, the British Medical Association (BMA) has confirmed. 

Services in south east London, including Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts, continue to experience delays to appointments and procedures following the ransomware attack on 3 June 2024.

The disruption has been worsened with the launch of five days of industrial action by junior doctors in England which began at 7am on 27 June 2024 and is planned to continue until 7am on 2 July 2024.

The BMA announced that junior doctors would strike ahead of the general election, owing to prime minister Rishi Sunak refusing to meet their demands for a roadmap to restore pay which they say has been lost over the last 15 years.

However the BMA has confirmed that agreements have been made with NHS England to allow a limited number of doctors to work across the sites most affected by the cyber attack.

Professor Phil Banfield, chair of BMA council, said: “Safe patient care has always been a priority for the BMA during the rounds of industrial action; ensured by giving trusts plenty of notice of the planned strikes, so that more senior doctors provide cover across the strike periods.

“This is why we have agreed with NHS England that a limited number of doctors will be able to work at six sites across London where the recent cyber attack has crippled access to life saving surgery.

“The doctors who are at hospitals in the Lewisham and Greenwich, Guy’s and St Thomas and Kings College Trusts, will look after patients who have experienced potentially dangerous delays to their care due to this malicious attack.

“NHS England raised concerns with us about patient safety at these hospitals, and we are pleased that we have been able to come to an agreement which means this group of patients will not suffer any further delays during the strike action.”

In a joint statement, Julie Lowe, deputy chief executive at King’s College Hospital and Dr Simon Steddon, chief medical officer at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “We are continuing to manage the cyber attack as a critical incident across both trusts, and we have also put measures in place to ensure we limit the disruption to patients resulting from the industrial action this week and next.”

NHS England London released data update for the third week following the attack (17-23 June), which shows that across the two most affected trusts, a further 1,300 outpatient appointments and 205 elective procedures had to be postponed.

This follows more than 1,294 postponed appointments and 320 postponed procedures in the second week (10-16 June), and over 800 planned operations and 700 appointments in the first week.

It means that so far in total, 3,396 outpatient appointments and 1,255 elective procedures have been postponed at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts since the attack occurred.

NHS England said that some progress has been made in the last week with pathology services now able to operate at 45% of the capacity they had prior to the cyber attack, up from 30% in the second week and just 10% in the first week.

Dr Chris Streather, medical director for NHS London, said: “Over the past week we have started to see some real progress in general practice where the impact of the cyber attack was significant on pathology services across south east London.

“The mutual aid agreements that have been put in place to meet urgent demand has been introduced at pace across all six boroughs and pathology services are currently able to operate at 45% of the capacity they had prior to the cyber attack.”

On 20 June, Russian cyber criminal group Qilin published patient data on the dark web which they claim was stolen as part of the attack.

 

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