NATIONAL 4.35pm UPDATE: QA Hospital says it is not affected by NHS cyber attack

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HOSPITALS around the UK are reportedly under ‘cyber attack’.

While the Portsmouth area is not affected, hospital trusts and GP groups in Lancashire and Hertfordshire were among those reporting problems, with one warning patients to only visit hospital accident and emergency departments ‘if absolutely necessary’.

A spokeswoman from Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs QA in Cosham, said the virus affecting other organisations has not reached them yet.

‘The trust has been informed by NHS Digital that there is currently a dangerous malware virus circulating,’ she said.

‘There have already been reports of infection across a number of NHS organisations throughout the country, though it does not appear to have reached our trust yet.

‘However, we have asked all staff to remain extra vigilant before opening any emails and attachments, and to report any suspicious messages or unexpected behaviours on their computers to our IT Service Desk immediately, including out of hours.

‘We are working closely with our anti-virus suppliers and the NHS Digital CareCERT team and are monitoring for potential impact.’

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and the resort town’s clinical commissioning group (CCG) warned of problems.

The CCG tweeted: ‘We are aware of an IT issue affecting some GP computer systems.

‘Patients are asked for understanding whilst the issue is resolved.

‘Please avoid contacting your GP practice unless absolutely necessary. Should you wish to obtain non-urgent medical advice, please call 111.

‘Please also only attend the Walk-In Centre and A&E department if absolutely necessary.’

A spokesman for NHS England said there was ‘an issue with IT’, but referred further inquiries to NHS Digital, which did not immediately comment.

It comes months after Barts Health Trust, the largest NHS trust in England, was hit by a ransomware cyber attack.

The trust sent a message to staff urging them not to open email attachments from unknown senders.

Viruses such as ransomware are normally delivered via emails which trick the recipient into opening attachments and releasing malware onto their system in a technique known as phishing.

Derbyshire Community Health Services Trust tweeted: ‘We are aware of a major IT secure system attack.

‘All IT systems have been temporarily shut down. More information will be available shortly.’

A Barts spokesman said it was experiencing ‘major IT disruption’ and delays at all four of its hospitals, The Royal London, St Bartholomew’s, Whipps Cross and Newham.

He said: ‘We have activated our major incident plan to make sure we can maintain the safety and welfare of patients.

‘We are very sorry that we have to cancel routine appointments, and would ask members of the public to use other NHS services wherever possible.

‘Ambulances are being diverted to neighbouring hospitals.’

Pictures posted on social media showed screens of NHS computers with images demanding payment of 300 US dollars worth of the online currency Bitcoin, saying: ‘Ooops, your files have been encrypted!’

It adds: ‘Maybe you are looking for a way to recover your files, but do not waste your time.’

It demands payment in three days or the price is doubled, and if none is received in seven days the files will be deleted.