London hospitals grapple with fallout from pathology lab cyberattack

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Hospitals in South East London still face a major disruption in pathology laboratory services, especially blood testing services, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College Hospitals NHS Trust said in an update.

The disruptions stem from a reported cyberattack on the pathology laboratory, Synnovis, that came to light June 3. In a harms monitoring document, South East London Integrated Care System called the situation a level 3 critical incident. Synnovis said that a group claiming responsibility for the cyberattack published data online June 20 that the group alleged belongs to the lab. The cyberattack has crippled the lab's IT systems.

A weekly update from NHS England said the regional incident has caused a "significant reduction" in the number of tests which can be processed and reported back to clinical teams. NHS Blood and Transplant has also asked O-positive and O-negative blood donors to urgently book appointments to donate blood. Organ transplants have had to be diverted to other Trusts.

Across the two most affected Trusts, King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, more than 1,294 outpatient appointments and 320 elective procedures had to be postponed because of the attack, NHS England reported. This means that so far 1,134 elective procedures and 2,194 outpatient appointments have been postponed since June 3.

"Hospitals that are not affected by the attack are creating capacity to take patients from those who are, and London’s specialist clinical networks are offering mutual aid across areas such as cardiac surgery, renal surgery, maternity, and specialist pediatrics," NHS England said as part of an FAQ about the matter. "Teams are minimizing risks as much as possible by focusing on the highest priority patients by clinical need. All tests are being triaged on arrival at the lab, so that the most clinically urgent are processed first."

Since the beginning of the disruption, mutual aid agreements between NHS labs have begun to have a positive impact in primary care providers, helping increase the number of blood tests available for the most critical and urgent cases, NHS England also said.

In April 2021, the medical diagnostics provider Synlab formed a 15-year pathology partnership, called Synnovis, with the U.K.’s NHS, and began working toward a "hub and spoke" pathology model. The pathology service, Synnovis, provides specialist tests for other hospitals in the country; however, the material service impact remains in South East London, NHS England said.

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