Government pledges to boost NHS data security spend

DataIQ News

The Government has vowed to plough up millions into the NHS to protect patient data and improve defences against the threat of global cyber-attacks, in the wake of the recent WannaCry ransomware assault.

Exact details of the increased spend have not been released although ministers said that £21m will be spent on help to boost security at major trauma sites, of which there are 27 across England. NHS Digital will also broadcast alerts about cyber threats to hospitals, provide a hotline for dealing with incidents, carry out on-site assessments to check security as well as beef up staff training. It is not known whether this is in addition to the £50m the Government announced in its spending review.

The pledges form the Government’s response to a report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and National Data Guardian Dame Fiona Caldicott, published nearly a year ago. They had already warned Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt that an “external cyber threat is becoming a bigger consideration” within the NHS, months before the WannaCry attack.

Their data security review of 60 hospitals, GP surgeries and dental practices found there was a “lack of understanding of security issues”. It warned that patient data breaches were often caused by hurried staff working “with ineffective processes and technology”.

Health Minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said: “The NHS has a long history of safeguarding confidential data, but with the growing threat of cyber-attacks including the WannaCry ransomware attack in May, this Government has acted to protect information across the NHS.

The Government has also revealed plans to give patients and the public more access to, and control over, their personal data. Patients will be able to make choices about sharing their confidential data and information by simply opting out from their data being used for purposes beyond their direct care.

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