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CCGs to set up WhatsApp group with practice managers in case of another NHS hack

9 August 2017

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Practices in Suffolk plan to keep communication lines open using a mobile chat app in the event of another cybersecurity attack on the NHS. 

Practice managers and commissioners in NHS West Suffolk CCG and NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG will be asked to join WhatsApp groups to keep in contact with each other.

The emergency measure comes in response to a cybersecurity attack on the NHS in May, which shut many practices for days.

In a board paper the CCGs, which share a governing body, said that while the cyber attack did not directly affect Suffolk practices, ‘the necessary precautionary methods taken to secure the network did cause significant disruption to Suffolk practices’.

The board paper adds that the Whatsapp groups, which will be set up from September 2017, will be used to ‘exchange information’ rather than for an initial notification of an attack.

Dr Simon Jones, chief executive of Suffolk LMC, said: ‘Given the risks of cyberattacks, you can’t guarantee that you’re always going to be able to use your normal channels of communication, so I think any resilience and contingency is definitely a good plan.’

A spokesman for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk CCGs said: ‘While Suffolk was not directly affected by the WannaCry cyber attack, precautionary methods were taken to secure the IT network of GP practices, community providers and the CCGs.

‘This incident has highlighted how we can further improve our response should another similar attack occur.

‘This ongoing action plan for improvement includes the setting up of WhatsApp groups to help with coordination of information in emergencies.’