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The 2017 Wannacry attack was a rude awakening for NHS organisations soldiering along with out of date and vulnerable IT systems.
Since then, the health service has attempted to improve its cyber defences – helped by several nationally procured contracts providing access to security services.
However, the view at the centre is that more needs to be done, and plans are afoot to enhance the central monitoring of trusts’ cyber security.
This work is being led by the Care Quality Commission and NHS Digital, which have teamed up to develop a more “intelligence-driven approach” to help their understanding of the digital risks facing NHS organisations – according to a data report published last month.
One of the options being considered is a rating being applied to trusts by NHSD, which would form part of the CQC’s intelligence-gathering process.
The watchdog would then reserve the right to send an NHSD expert into trusts which need the greatest level of cyber improvements.
Although increased scrutiny from watchdogs is not always welcomed by busy trust leaders, the benefits of such a preventative measure should – in theory – more than compensate for the extra work.
Patients are still not turning up to emergency departments in the same numbers seen before April; attendees are rising but figures remain below pre-covid.
What is further discouraging are some of the reasons that patients aren’t attending - with new research suggesting safety is one of them.
Researchers from Leicester have found patients thought going to A&E was riskier than other types of hospital attendances and noted fear as a significant factor in ED shortfalls across the NHS.
The survey, thought to be a first of its kind examining public opinion of hospital attendances, also showed that attending hospital to visit patients was considered risky.
Despite this, the researchers found several actionable measures, including PPE and social distancing, that give patients significantly greater confidence to attend.
The study’s authors say more research is crucial to back up this early work. Nonetheless the results may be useful in tackling damaging patient perceptions that risk becoming ingrained.