Lincolnshire NHS trust restarts services following virus outbreak

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Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust claims its business as usual today after containing virus threat

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust claims that the majority of its IT systems are now up-and-running following a virus outbreak on Sunday.

The outbreak - about which the Trust has refused to release much details - led to cancelled operations in the three hospitals operated by the Trust, as well as hospitals in a neighbouring NHS trust with which it shares some systems.

Patients had been advised to consider almost all appointments or operations cancelled from Monday through to Wednesday as the organisation shut down IT systems in order to contain the outbreak.

The Trust's IT staff and outside security consultants then sought to scan the systems and to remove any malware found on a system-by-system basis.

The Trust had hoped to start a return to normal on Wednesday and, although some services were reinstated, there were still widespread cancellations of operations.

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust picked up the virus on Sunday and shut down its IT systems in a bid to isolate and deal with the outbreak. Operations were cancelled on Monday and Tuesday accordingly, with the hope that a return to normal would be possible on Wednesday.

In an announcement yesterday, the Trust said: "A virus infected our electronic systems on Sunday October 30 and we have taken the decision, following expert advice, to shut down the majority of our systems so we can isolate and destroy it...

"A major incident has been called and all planned operations, outpatient appointments and diagnostic procedures have been cancelled for today (Tuesday). All patients should presume their appointment/procedure has been cancelled unless they are contacted. Those who turn up will be turned away."

The Trust has even turned away "major trauma cases" and redirecting "high risk women in labour" to neighbouring Trusts' hospitals. Accident and emergency services remain open.

However, neighbouring hospitals run by United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust have also been affected as the two trusts share four clinical IT systems. It, too, has cancelled operations. 

"We are reviewing the situation on an hourly basis. Our clinicians will continue to see, treat and operate on those patients who would be at significant clinical risk should their treatment be delayed," the announcement concluded.

However, the Trust has been tight-lipped about discussing precise details of the outbreak - even refusing to divulge the type of virus it has identified and why the outbreak necessitated not just the shut down of information systems, but also clinical IT systems.

It also seems clear that the organisation lacks any kind of business continuity plan to continue operating in the event of an IT systems failure or shut down.

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust runs three hospitals in Grimsby, Scunthorpe and Goole, while United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust runs hospitals in Gainsborough, Lincoln, Boston, Skegness and Grantham.

Yesterday, Computing filed a series of questions with the Trust in a bid to find out more information about the outbreak, and the business continuity plans it has in place to maintain services in the event of a disaster. We are still awaiting a comprehensive response to our questions.

Earlier this year, Lincolnshire County Council shut down its IT systems following the outbreak of a ransomware virus that, the organisation feared, could cost as much as £1m in ransom payments were it allowed to spread

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