London hospitals canceled over 800 operations in the week after Synnovis ransomware attack

Pierluigi Paganini June 15, 2024

NHS England confirmed that multiple London hospitals impacted by the ransomware attack at Synnovis were forced to cancel planned operations.

NHS England confirmed that the recent ransomware attack on Synnovis had a severe impact of multiple London hospitals, forcing them to cancel more than hundreds of scheduled operations.

Synnovis is a pathology partnership between Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College Hospitals NHS Trust, and SYNLAB, Europe’s largest provider of medical testing and diagnostics.

In a post published on its website, Synnovis disclosed it was the victim of a ransomware attack.

The pathology and diagnostic services provider has launched an investigation into the security breach with the help of experts from the NHS. The experts are working to fully assess the impact of the attack and to take the appropriate action to contain the incident. The company also announced they are working closely with NHS Trust partners to minimise the impact on patients and other service users.

Law enforcement suspects that Qilin extortion group is behind the attack. The NHS London published a statement on Synnovis ransomware attack confirming that the incident is having a significant impact on the delivery of services at Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts and primary care services in south east London.

“On Monday 3 June Synnovis, a provider of lab services, was the victim of a ransomware cyber attack. This is having a significant impact on the delivery of services at Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts and primary care services in south east London and we apologise for the inconvenience this is causing to patients and their families.” reads the statement published by NHS London.

“All urgent and emergency services remain open as usual and the majority of outpatient services continue to operate as normal.” continues the NHS. “Unfortunately, some operations and procedures which rely more heavily on pathology services have been postponed, and blood testing is being prioritised for the most urgent cases, meaning some patients have had phlebotomy appointments cancelled.”

On Friday 14, June, NHS London confirmed that King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust canceled more than 800 planned operations and 700 outpatient appointments. According to the statement from NHS London, the majority of planned activity were not interrupted, but the incident specifically impacted some specialities more than others.

“The data for the first week after the attack (3-9 June) shows that, across the two most affected Trusts – King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust – more than 800 planned operations and 700 outpatient appointments needed to be rearranged. The majority of planned activity has continued to go ahead, with some specialities impacted more than others.” reads statement from the NHS England. “Trusts are working hard to make sure any procedures are rearranged as quickly as possible, including by adding extra weekend clinics.”

Synnovis is working on recovering impacted systems, planning to restore some functionality in the coming weeks. Full restoration will take longer, and the need to reschedule tests and appointments will cause ongoing disruptions over the next few months.

Early this week, the UK National Health Service (NHS) issued an urgent call for O-type blood donations due to the recent ransomware attack on Synnovis that disrupted operations at several healthcare organizations in London.

The NHS confirmed that the ransomware attack has disrupted blood matching tests, for this reason, affected hospitals are using O Negative and O Positive blood for patients who can’t wait for alternative matching methods. For this reason, the NHS is calling for O-type blood donations.

“England’s top doctor has today (Monday 10 June) backed calls from NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) for O Positive and O Negative blood donors to urgently book appointments to donate in one of the 25 town and city centre NHS Blood Donor Centres in England, to boost stocks of O type blood following the cyber incident in London.” reads the announcement published by the NHS Blood and Transplant.

“The IT incident affecting a pathology provider means the affected hospitals cannot currently match patients’ blood at the same frequency as usual. For surgeries and procedures requiring blood to take place, hospitals need to use O type blood as this is safe to use for all patients and blood has a shelf life of 35 days, so stocks need to be continually replenished. That means more units of these types of blood than usual will be required over the coming weeks to support the wider efforts of frontline staff to keep services running safely for local patients.”

O Negative blood is a universal blood type, anyone can receive it, for this reason, it is crucial in emergencies or when a patient’s blood type is unknown. Despite only 8% of the population having O Negative, it accounts for about 15% of hospital orders. O Positive, the most common blood type, can be given to anyone with a positive blood type, benefiting 76% of the population. 35% of blood donors have O Positive blood.

“To support London hospitals to carry out more surgeries and to provide the best care we can for all patients, we need more O Negative and O Positive donors than usual. Please book an urgent appointment to give blood at one of our 25 town and city donor centres which currently have good appointment availability.” said Dr Gail Miflin, Chief Medical Officer, NHS Blood and Transplant. “We have availability for donors who know they are type O but we also welcome new donors who don’t yet know their blood type. You might have one of these special types that can be used in emergencies.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, London hospitals)

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