NHS 111 service hit by cyber attack: GPs told to expect influx of calls from patients
LONDON Aug 6: The NHS 111 service was thrown into chaos by a cyber attack, severely restricting the assistance provided to patients. Call handlers across 85 per cent of the country were without a crucial IT system and had to resort to using a pen and paper. The Adastra software went offline at 7am on Thursday and staff have been told it may be not functioning again until next week. Advanced, which supplies the service, confirmed last night the problems have been caused by a cyber attack. Family doctors in London were warned by NHS England they could see an increased number of patients sent to them by NHS 111 due to the "significant technical issue", industry magazine Pulse reported. A letter from London’s ICBs and NHS England’s regional team, seen by Pulse, said the outage has left 111 call handlers ‘working on paper’, ‘negatively affecting’ response times. It has also left NHS 111 unable book patients directly into GP practice slots for appointments, as the outage affects the electronic referral process. ‘To mitigate this, 111 will make a telephone booking where possible or signpost patients’, according the the letter, which also asked GP practices to ‘manage calls where possible’ and not direct to 111. ‘All system partners who receive referrals from 111’ will be impacted by the outage, ‘to a greater or lesser extent’, the letter said. The issue occurred at 7am this morning on the Adastra system, used by 111 services and hosted by Advanced. The letter said: ‘A solution is being worked on urgently by Adastra, however, there is no ETA for this.’ NHS 111 online services are ‘still in place’, however the link to the 111 Clinical Assessment Service is unavailable, meaning ‘online users will be signposted to alternative appropriate services as required’. Regarding the effect on GPs, the letter said: ‘111 will not be able to book patients directly into GP practices. ‘GP practices may experience patients informing [them] they have been advised by 111 to contact their GP practice directly. GP practices may experience a higher number of referrals from patients signposted by 111 to general practice. ‘To support patients and 111 GP practices are asked if they could manage calls where possible, not direct to 111.’ It added that access to patients’ NHS numbers will also not be available for the duration of the outage. The letter said: ‘Any service requiring NHS numbers as part of referral will need to develop a mitigation for this. NHS numbers could be found retrospectively.’ It added: ‘We thank you in advance for your support during this time and if you have any questions or concerns please contact your commissioner, EPRR team or line manager.