NHS Hospital Struck Down by Computer Virus

Last Friday IT systems at the West Middlesex University Hospital were hit by the bug leaving hospital workers unable to book appointments via electronic systems, meaning a return to pen and paper. Although the virus was contained and a number of systems cleaned some systems still remain unavailable. The hospital employs 1,900 staff, has 400 beds and looks after 400,000 residents in the Hounslow and Richmond-upon-Thames area.

In a Statement the West Middlesex University Hospital said “We are currently isolating the virus and cleaning the system. This is causing some operational issues. We have implemented our business continuity plan and are operating manual systems as part of our standard procedure. We do have a number of computers working in several priority areas such as A&E, ITU, theatres and some out-patient departments. We have contacted all our partner organisations and are doing everything we can to get back to normal. We apologise for the inconvenience that has been caused so far but do ask the local community to refrain from contacting the hospital for non-urgent requests. A&E is open and accepting patients. If it is not an emergency, we would encourage the local community to contact their GP, visit their local pharmacy and use walk-in centres such as The Heart of Hounslow and Teddington Memorial Hospital where possible. More information about these services can be found at www.nhs.uk”

Recently a number of high profile organisations including the Greater Manchester Police, Leeds NHS and Mid Cheshire NHS Trust have been hit by malware infections causing significant problems. In large public service organisation many legacy systems only function correctly with certain types of web browser, many of which are now out of date and are unable to cope with today’s more sophisticated viruses. Recently Microsoft announced that a critical flaw in Internet Explorer 6 had been the route by which Chinese hackers had managed to enter Google’s corporate systems. The company advised uses to upgrade from IE6 to Internet Explorer 7 which contains a number of security enhancements. Although Internet Explore 8 exists the Department of Health was unable to advise Trusts to upgrade to the newer browser due to support issues with NHS applications.

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