• Barts Health returning to normal activity but “smaller number” of planned appointment still likely to be cancelled this weekend
  • Thousands of outpatient appointments and hundreds of elective operations cancelled since Monday
  • Trust appeals for nursing students to volunteer as runners as some IT systems remain down 

Barts Health appealed to its medical students to act as runners over the weekend, as it continues to struggle more than a week after being infect in a global cyber attack.

In a message sent to medical students at the end of the week, seen by HSJ, Barts Health asks them to volunteer over the weekend at Royal London Hospital to help “manage patient results and treatment, until the systems can be safely used again”. 

Electronic communication between department has not been fully restored yet and this makes it difficult for test results to be available in a timely manner for patient care,” the memo said.

The memo said even “a few hours”, particularly in the evenings, would help.

Barts, the largest trust in England, is the only trust to confirm it was continuing to cancel some outpatient appointments and elective surgery on Friday, a week after at least 47 trusts were infected in an unprecedented global ransomware attack.

While nationally most patient services are back up and running, HSJ understands a handful of trusts have yet to fully restore their IT systems.

A Barts Health spokesman told HSJ that the vast majority of appointments and operations would go ahead at the trust this weekend, and hospital patient activity was returning to normal levels, with volumes in A&E about 80 per cent of normal.

However, a “smaller volume” of planned appointments and operations would likely still be cancelled over the weekend. Patients are advised to attend appointments as usual unless contacted by the trust.

Many IT systems across the trust were still down on Friday afternoon, including emails, hence the need for runners. All 10,000 of the trust’s computers had been “swept” for the virus and were slowly being brought back online.

“We are still fully open, even if it’s not quite business as usual.”

Administrative and clerical staff, most of whom have had no computer access, had been acting as runners all week. The appeal to students was part of planning for the weekend, as some IT systems were not expected to be restored, he said.

A spokesman said: “All of our staff have been working tirelessly to deal with the effects of last week’s unprecedented cyber attack. Our teams across our hospitals have truly gone above and beyond the call of duty, volunteering to help in any way they can.

“As our medical students are familiar with our clinical processes, we have asked them to assist with communicating messages between departments that will aid patient care. We continue to work around the clock on bringing our IT systems to full use.”

According to figures provided by the trust on Friday afternoon, since Monday about 35 per cent, or 500, of the roughly 1500 booked elective operations were postponed. 

During the same five days, about 25 per cent, or 4300, of trust’s roughly 17,300 outpatient appointments were postponed.

Most of the cancellations were early in the week, how the figures do not cover the first three days after the cyber attack.

On Friday, HSJ reported that Barts Health hard raised concerns about its reliance on computers running the vulnerable Windows XP operating system, one of the ways the ransomware is believed to gain access to NHS systems, days before the cyber attack.