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Cyber attack: NHS ordered to upgrade outdated systems as disruption continues

Cyber attack: NHS ordered to upgrade outdated systems as disruption continues

The NHS has been ordered to upgrade its outdated computer systems within ten months, as disruption from the largest cyber hack in its history continued to drag on. Operations have continued to be cancelled and patients turned away from hospitals and GPs by services forced to rely on pen and paper on, while the security crisis was tackled. Large swathes of the NHS have been paralysed by the cyber attack, which hit more than 200,000 victims in 150 countries around the world.

The NHS has been criticised for its reliance on outdated computer systems, which are more vulnerable to hacking. One in twenty NHS devices runs on Micosoft XP - an operating system which is 16 years old and is not serviced by the company. It comes amid reports that Google received medical records of 1.6 million NHS patients on an "inappropriate legal basis". The tech giant's artificial intelligence arm DeepMind received the data from the Royal Free Hospital in London, which it used to test a smartphone app, according to Sky News. But Dame Fiona Caldicott wrote a letter to the medical director of the hospital voicing concerns that the legal basis for sharing the data was "inappropriate".

Jeremy Hunt said the NHS had made a "huge effort" to improve the resilence of the NHS in recent years - as he committed to eliminate use of such devices by the end of next March. "Just 18 months ago nearly 20 per cent of our NHS devices were running on XP - that's been reduced to 4.7 per cent,  so real effort has been made," he said, highlighting a new Government contract which means all unsupported systems have less than a year to be phased out. The Health Secretary said the NHS had not suffered a feared second wave of attacks.

But across the country, GPs and hospitals were struggling to cope with the fallout, with senior doctors warning that some level of disruption could continue for days. Patients were being turned away from the Royal London Hospital yesterday amid delays in treatment and medication because staff had been warned not to use the computers. Staff said the failure of a flagship plan to make the NHS paperless had "saved" the hospital from an even greater crisis. In 2013 Mr Hunt promised to make the NHS paperless by 2018. But earlier this year he admitted the programme was failing, saying he was "quite relieved that most people seem to have forgotten that I made that promise". He told a committee of peers that the NHS was "weak" on hospital IT systems, following warnings that half of hospitals are at least five years behind schedule.

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