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London Hospitals Hit by Cyberattack Impacting Blood Transfusions

In Technology
June 04, 2024

(Bloomberg) — Services at several London hospitals were disrupted after a provider that helps manage blood transfusions and lab services was hit by a ransomware attack.

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Lab services provider Synnovis confirmed the attack in a statement on Tuesday and said it was working with the National Health Service to minimize impact on patients. Patients using NHS services at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, King’s College Hospital as well as GP services across South East London have been affected, the company said.

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A clinical alert went out to staff at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust on Monday afternoon saying that it had lost access to the blood transfusion IT system and that only urgent blood components would be issued, according to a memo seen by Bloomberg. The hospital trust’s Chief Executive Officer Ian Abbs told employees that evening that the IT systems at provider Synnovis had experienced a major, ongoing incident that was impacting services, according to an email seen by Bloomberg.

A spokesperson for the NHS England London region said that the hack is having a “significant impact” on the hospitals’ ability to deliver services, though emergency care is still available. Patients should continue to attend appointments unless they’re told otherwise, the spokesperson said.

Synnovis said that it reported the incident to the police and the Information Commissioner’s Office. The Department of Health & Social Care, NHS England and the National Cyber Security Centre are also investigating the incident, a UK government spokesman said.

Health-care providers globally are increasingly targeted by hackers, who lock employees out of crucial systems or threaten sensitive patient data in a high-stakes gambit for ransoms. A unit of insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc. faced a cyberattack in February that paralyzed much of the US health-care system. A gang of Russian-speaking cybercriminals targeted the Barts Health NHS Trust, whose hospitals care for about 2.5 million people, in July.

The so-called WannaCry attack in 2017, tied to North Korean hackers, impacted more than 60 NHS trusts and many facilities couldn’t access patient records, forcing delays of non-urgent surgeries and canceled appointments.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust is made up of five hospitals, including the Royal Brompton which is the largest specialist heart and lung center in the UK. Synnovis also works with King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust which is one of London’s largest teaching hospitals. Synnovis is a partnership between the company Synlab UK & Ireland and the two hospital trusts.

This ransomware attack is the third to hit Synlab AG in the last 12 months. In June 2023, Synlab said its French branch was hit by attacker group Clop. In April this year, a cyberattack paralyzed the group’s Italian operation.

–With assistance from Ellen Milligan, Alex Wickham and Asad Zulfiqar.

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