The global 'ransomware' attack which began last Friday (May 12) resulted in patients being diverted away from hospitals, operations cancelled, and clinicians unable to access patient records or use phone lines, according to various hospital trusts.
GP surgeries were also left struggling to deliver services to patients, with the Royal College of General Practitioners reporting that repeat prescriptions and appointment booking systems were disrupted.
Although community pharmacies were not directly affected by the initial cyber attack, C+D has received an increasing number of reports of pharmacies stepping in and managing emergency medicine supplies.
C+D took a closer look at what different pharmacies around the country have been doing to support their local GP practices – and patients – during this time of crisis.
“Surgeries told patients to come to the pharmacy”
Usman Khalid, pharmacist at Woodlands Pharmacy in Washington, County Durham, told C+D all GP surgeries within a five-mile radius were affected, as they cancelled their appointments and were reduced to issuing handwritten emergency prescriptions only.
“I spoke to all the surgeries first thing in the morning and got delivery drivers to relay a message to say: anything we can do to help, we will,” Mr Khalid said. “As long as a surgery can verify a prescription, we’ll do it.”
"We’re quite a busy pharmacy anyway," he said. "We deal with quite a high [dispensing] volume, and because of that we were able to do a lot of emergency supplies – it was just over 100 items in the end."
It got to the point where surgeries were telling patients to come to the pharmacy, Mr Khalid added. “Without us, they would have been scuppered.”
“Pharmacy is good at stepping up to the mark”
Nick Hunter, chief officer of Nottinghamshire local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) told C+D that GP practices in the area were told not to switch on their systems, to avoid getting 'infected'.
Patient awareness of the situation was raised via local radio and TV – with the public being advised to go to their pharmacy first.
“[Nottinghamshire] did about 400 emergency supplies,” Mr Hunter said. “Pharmacy is really good at stepping up to the mark when it matters.”
“Patients were worried but we coped with every request”
Tony Schofield, owner of Flagg Court Pharmacy in South Shields, also described how GPs referred patients to his pharmacy, as their systems were switched off.
“Thankfully patients were becoming aware of the situation and were understanding – they were worried, but we coped with every request,” he said. “On Monday, we ascertained that the connection to the summary care record was safe.”
"Workload nosedived as electronic transfer of prescriptions wasn’t working," Mr Schofield said. "But at least this helped with the stress."
Although the pharmacy had been assured that GP systems would be switched on from 4pm, Mr Schofield said it was “very patchy and slow”.
“GPs, their staff and my staff have been fantastic,” he added.
How others experienced the cyber attack
Our phones have been affected by the cyber attack but other than that we are working normally. Open tomorrow (Sat) 9-1— Balance St. Pharmacy (@BalancePharmacy) May 12, 2017
I don't have my meds. The scrip was supposed to be sent to my pharmacy this weekend but wasn't because of the cyber attack.— nerdy & fabulous (@HooiWanV) May 15, 2017