BREAKING NEWS -
The NHS has been hit by a suspected major national cyber attack across Britain.
Hackers have reportedly taken control of computers and cut off phone lines in hospitals across England.
The attack is allegedly demanding $300 of the digital currency bitcoin, which equates to around £415,000, otherwise the files will be deleted.
A spokesman for Blackpool Clinical Commission Group (CCG), Lancashire, said the virus targeted Lancashire but has since spread.
Dr Tony Naughton, the chief clinical officer at Fylde and Wyre CCG, described the problem as ‘national’, while East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust said it believed it had been hit by a ‘cyber attack’ and had suspended all non-urgent activity.
Speaking on Twitter, NHS Merseyside said: ‘Following a suspected national cyber attack we are taking all precautionary measures possible to protect our local NHS systems and services’.
Some hospitals said they have been forced to divert emergencies due to the attack.
Tech experts are now battling to fix the problem, but computers at walk-in centres, hospitals, and at GP surgeries have been taken offline, along with some telephone services.
One doctor said in a message on Twitter: ‘So our hospital is down.
‘We got a message saying your computers are now under their control and pay a certain amount of money. And now everything is gone.’
A screenshot obtained by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) purported to show the pop-up that appeared on at least one of the computers affected.
It said: ‘Your important files are encrypted. Maybe you are busy looking for a way to recover your files, but do not waste your time.
‘Nobody can recover your files without our decryption service.’
It goes on to demand around £415,000, otherwise the files will be deleted.
It gives a deadline of May 19 to pay.
The HSJ said services affected were thought include archiving systems for x-rays, pathology test results, phone and bleep systems, and patient admin systems.
East and North Hertfordshire NHS trust, one of the those affected, said: ‘Today the trust has experienced a major IT problem, believed to be caused by a cyber attack.
‘Immediately on discovery of the problem, the trust acted to protect its IT systems by shutting them down; it also meant that the trust’s telephone system is not able to accept incoming calls
‘The trust is postponing all non-urgent activity for today and is asking people not to come to A&E – please ring NHS111 for urgent medical advice or 999 if it is a life-threatening emergency.
‘To ensure that all back-up processes and procedures were put in place quickly, the trust declared a major internal incident to make sure that patients already in the trust’s hospitals continued to receive the care they need.’