Demand spikes at major trauma centre as neighbour is struck down by ransomware

Operations carried out without x-rays after PACS systems go down

CEO pays tribute to ‘incredible’ staff

A trauma centre in London which had escaped Friday’s ransomware attack had to declare a major incident because of increased demand from patients diverted from a neighbouring trust which had been infected.

Details have also been emerging over the weekend of how some of the trusts affected dealt with the loss of IT functions in the wake of the attack.

HSJ has learned that St George’s University Hospitals Foundation Trust declared a major incident on Saturday night. It sent messages to senior staff urging them to contact their relevant team leaders.

HSJ understands the trust had not been directly affected by the attack, but declared an incident because of increased activity after patients were diverted from the Royal London Hospital, which was forced to close to new trauma cases after Friday’s cyber-attack. The Royal London is run by Barts Health Trust, which was named by NHS England as one of the most severely affected by the attack.

Sources at St George’s told HSJ their trust had taken down some email and IT systems as a precaution but was continuing to operate normally.

A trust spokeswoman said on Sunday evening: “We have supported the [London health] system throughout the weekend to help with the pressures currently being experienced. All of our clinical services and systems are operating as normal.”

At London North West Healthcare Trust IT systems were still badly affected over a day after the malware struck, with limited access to picture archiving communication systems used to transfer x-ray images.

HSJ has been told operating theatres continued to work with no cancellations. However, surgical staff had to view x-rays in the trust’s A&E department before going back to theatres to operate.

One surgeon said: “What was the choice? The patients have been waiting with their fractures. If we stuck to the rules we would have had to cancel all operations. Hopefully we can agree on some proper contingencies as this is our second PACS outage recently.”

A spokesman for the trust told HSJ surgeons had not been able to access x-rays in theatre after the trust took precautionary steps to close systems to prevent them from being infected.

The spokesman added: “There were some cancellations of appointments and clinics on Friday afternoon. We were able to get things working again quite quickly by Saturday evening.”

At James Paget University Hospitals Foundation Trust HSJ was told lab results were being reported via paper delivered by “runners”, while x-ray images could only be viewed in one location as they were unable to be sent around the organisation electronically. But, one source said the cyber-attack “brought out the best in everyone.”

They added: “I’ve never seen so many senior management around on a Friday night. Everyone just got on finding solutions to problems. Lots of senior people stayed on site overnight to make sure things were ok. I’m really proud of how everyone pulled together. We had lots of junior doctors volunteering to come in over the weekend. Radiologists stayed in all night with handwritten CT reports coming back straight away; much quicker than usual telemedicine reports.”

The trust declined to comment.

Meanwhile Ann James, chief executive of Plymouth Hospitals Trust told HSJ: “Our staff were incredible. Many came back in to the hospital without being asked, to support their colleagues. Patients were the priority but after a celebratory international nurses’ day everyone was very focused.”

She added: “We are keeping the situation under review for Monday but this is about general non-elective pressures rather than anything else.”