How UK pharmacists helped in the malware crisis

Pharmacies in the UK scrambled to help support services hamstrung by the WannaCry cyber attack

UK pharmacy magazine Chemist + Druggist spoke to several pharmacists who pitched in to manage emergency medicine supplies and help patients as they were diverted away from hospitals.

Usman Khalid, pharmacist at Woodlands Pharmacy in England’s north-east, told the magazine that he spoke to GPs early in the morning of May 12 to offer his help.

All GP surgeries in a five-mile radius were hit by the malware, and could only manage handwritten emergency prescriptions.

“As long as a surgery can verify a prescription, we’ll do it,” Mr Khalid told C+D.

Soon, surgeries were directing their patients to the pharmacy, which was able to supply just over 100 emergency items, and managed well due to having high dispensing volumes under normal circumstances.

In Nottingham, GP surgeries were told not to turn on their computers in a bid to stop infection, and TV and radio told patients to visit their local pharmacy first.

And Tony Schofield, who owns the Flagg Court Pharmacy in South Shields near Newcastle, also had GPs sending their patients to his pharmacy.

“Thankfully patients were becoming aware of the situation and were understanding – they were worried, but we coped with every request,” he told C+D. “On Monday, we ascertained that the connection to the summary care record was safe.”

“Workload nosedived as electronic transfer of prescriptions wasn’t working. But at least this helped with the stress.”

C+D readers also queried how the “hub and spoke” system being promoted by the UK Government would have coped with the crisis, compared with the country’s network of community pharmacies.

“Any estimates of cost to NHS if 3000 pharmacies were not there to ‘step up to the mark’? Is there a case to revisit closure of pharmacies due to cuts in pharmacy funding?” wondered reader Chandra Nathwani.

Other UK media spoke of mass disruption in hospital pharmacies, with the Telegraph reporting that conditions in hospital were “primitive”.

“I observed the pharmacy, instead they of the usual computer forms they had to write the medication name and dosage by hand,” one ward nurse told reporter Rozina Sabur.

“We had to use forms from ten years ago because we couldn’t use them online. We then had to call people to bring the medicine requests because when we do it online it registers automatically.”

The Well pharmacy chain moved to reassure its customers: “Following the incident on Friday 12th May, where the NHS was the victim of a cyber attack, we want to reassure customers that we have confirmed all patient data held by Well remains secure and that our IT teams are monitoring the situation,” it said.

Meanwhile on Twitter, some health professionals expressed frustration.

Others took a more light-hearted look at the problem, however.

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