The NHS must take urgent steps to defend against cyber attacks which could risk the safety of patients. This is the finding of a new White Paper on NHS Cyber Security presented to the House of Lords.
The report, compiled by researchers from Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) led by Professor Lord Ara Darzi, suggests a combination of out-dated computer systems, lack of investment, and a deficit of skills and awareness in cyber security is placing NHS hospitals at risk.
The research team commends the measures that have been put in place across the health system, but say more investment is urgently needed.
The report outlines a number of key measures that should be implemented by trusts to increase cyber resilience. These initiatives include employing cyber security professionals, building ‘fire-breaks’ into systems to allow certain segments to be isolated if infected with a virus, and having clear communication systems so staff know where to get help and advice on cyber security.
The authors also point to the number of new technologies being used in the health system, such as robotics, artificial intelligence, implantable medical devices and personalised medicines, and say scientists must build security into the design of these technologies.
Lord Darzi, Co-Director of the IGHI, said: “As we become increasingly reliant on technology in healthcare, we must address the emerging challenges that arise in parallel. For the safety of patients, it is critical to ensure that the data, devices and systems that uphold our NHS and therefore our nation’s health are secure.
“This report highlights weaknesses that compromise patient safety and the integrity of health systems, so we are calling for greater investment in research to learn how we can better mitigate against the looming threats of cyber-attacks.”