Fallout from cyber attack still being felt across NHS services on Fylde Coast

Former gymnast Jess Laughton, who raised 10,000 to have her leg amputated privately
Former gymnast Jess Laughton, who raised 10,000 to have her leg amputated privately

The effects of a massive cyber attack that caused major disruption to the NHS are still being felt on the Fylde coast.

Staff at GP practices were working with pens and paper yesterday after being warned to leave machines switched off until given the all clear by experts to prevent the spread of the WannaCry virus.

Former gymnast Jess Laughton, who raised £10,000 to have her leg amputated privately because treatment for her condition is not available on the NHS, was among those affected.

She said she was left ‘heartbroken’ after the operation at Blackpool Victoria Hospital was cancelled, adding: “I can’t stop crying.

“The amputation was to enable me to get some independence and quality of life back.”

The 23-year-old added: “I have been completely bed-bound for over a year now.

“My surgeon is a very busy man. He works both in the UK and abroad for charity, so arranging a new date isn’t going to be easy.”

Jess, from Driffield on the east coast, has complex regional pain syndrome, and has been plagued by excruciating pain since breaking her leg when she was 12.

She also developed dystonia, a neurological condition that meant her foot was stuck in a pointed down position and will not move, and was having eight doses or morphine a day.

She made the journey to Blackpool Victoria Hospital after raising the £10,000 she needed for the procedure online.

As Friday’s events unfolded, she wrote on Facebook that she was ‘heartbroken’ after because her ‘amputation is cancelled.’

“[The] Anaesthetist had agreed to go ahead with the amputation tomorrow but now apparently some idiot has lodged a cyber attack on NHS computers so all the systems are down over the country,” she added.

The attack, known as ‘WannaCry’ or ‘Wanna Decryptor’, saw 200,000 computers in around 150 countries infected by ransomware that originated in the UK and Spain before spreading around the world.

The NHS was one of many major global organisations affected, with 47 trusts, and it had a major impact across Asia as workers there returned to work on Monday, with Chinese state media saying almost 30,000 institutions there had been infected.

At the Vic, apart from things moving slower than usual, with some staff still using pen and paper and without their machines, it remained business as usual, relatively speaking.

Patients are understood to have heeded the call to avoid A&E unless absolute necessary, with one nearby resident remarking over the weekend how eerily quiet the hospital was.

Most of the computers at the Vic are believed to have been turned off as a precautionary measure, and IT workers spent the weekend trying to stop

the malicious virus in its tracks.

Though patients were told to turn up for booked appointments unless contacted and told otherwise, hospital bosses did not say, when asked by The Gazette, specifically how many appointments and operations have been cancelled.

However, the hospital is thought to have got off lightly compared to nearby Preston and Chorley hospitals, where scores of procedures were cancelled.

Meanwhile, GP surgeries across the Fylde whey were all open as usual, but some did not have full access to patient records, prescriptions, appointment systems, and in some cases, telephone systems.

Staff were warned not to turn their computers on yesterday morning without getting the all clear from IT workers before — with bosses forced to use social media in a bid to get the message out.

Those with appointments were told to attend unless contacted directly and told not to, but patients were asked not to try and make a new appointment — by phone or in person — ‘unless it is vital’.

Broadway Medical Centre in Fleetwood initially said it had cancelled all routine appointments yesterday, but bosses there made a U-turn and later opened as normal, while still operating its same day and triage system for urgent queries and appointments.

Kirkham-based practice, Ash Tree House, said it was taking repeat prescriptions requests outside its designated times, despite having limited IT access, to make up for Friday’s chaos.

“It is likely that some practices will only be able to offer urgent appointments on Monday and Tuesday,” a statement sent on behalf of health groups in Lancashire said.

“The NHS is asking patients to continue to use the NHS wisely and remember that they can seek help and advice from a range of other sources, such as pharmacies or 111.