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Thousands of blood test samples to be destroyed after NHS cyber attack

A major cyber attack has left GP surgeries in London only able to carry out 400 blood tests out of 10,000 a day, while thousands of patient samples are set to be destroyed. The Independent can reveal.

The attack, which paralyzed hospital services run by Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, is also having a heavy impact on doctors’ surgeries.

Russian cybercriminals are believed to be behind the ransomware hack on pathology service provider Synnovis.

This publication revealed on Saturday that hospitals had to cancel more than 200 life-saving operations and thousands of outpatient appointments, including those under urgent cancer referrals.

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In a new leaked email obtained by The Independent today, Synnovis warned of problems with the blood tests it routinely carries out for GP practices in the south London boroughs of Bromley, Southwark, Lambeth, Bexley, Greenwich and Lewisham.

The email sent on Monday also said: “We regret that we received far more samples from primary care than we could process last week – approximately 8,000 serum samples for chemistry. These are stored in our refrigerators. We have been able to process approximately 3,000 complete blood count samples but are unable to export the results as we do not have IT connectivity as described above.

“It is very likely that most will be thrown away as the sample will have degraded, making the results unreliable. Of those tests processed, we have rung through all results that are outside the critical limits, however, we have not been able to return any results electronically and it is unlikely that we will be able to do so.”

The email, sent by Synnovis to GP and Primary Care Services in London, said all phlebotomy appointments in Southwark and Lewisham using Synnovis services were canceled until the end of June.

Synnovis is a partnership between the private company Synlab and the NHS, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Russian cybercriminal group believed to be behind ransomware attack affecting major London hospitals (PA Archive)Russian cybercriminal group believed to be behind ransomware attack affecting major London hospitals (PA Archive)

Russian cybercriminal group believed to be behind ransomware attack affecting major London hospitals (PA Archive)

In the update, he added: “We normally process about 10,000 primary care blood samples a day, but currently we can only handle up to 400 from all six boroughs. Despite the measures we know colleagues are taking to prioritize the most urgent samples, we are receiving far more than we can process and have a growing backlog.”

Practices were asked to order only “critical” tests and were told they should “apply this definition carefully” because of the “severe capacity constraints” labs face.

Synnovis warned GPs that “NHS service users are at increased risk of being targeted by a cyber attack” and urged them to be vigilant about phishing or spam emails.

According to the email, prior to the attack, Synnovis was also processing 70,000 tests that it was sending electronically to primary care providers.

The message added: “We have received several questions about the recent issues with Keystone – the system used to send test results electronically to primary care users. You will know that we were processing a stock of 70,000 test results prior to the cyber attack.

“Please be assured that all these results were safely returned to GPs before the cyber attack took place on Monday 3rd June, so no results are outliers. The Keystone issue was unrelated to the cyber attack.”

Synnovis and NHS England have been contacted for comment.

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