NHS data of more than a million patients has been compromised in a cyberattack, senior health chiefs have been warned.
A recent ransomware attack on the University of Manchester affected an NHS patient record containing information on 1.1 million patients across 200 hospitals The Independent has confirmed.
Details potentially disclosed include NHS numbers and the first three letters of patients’ postcodes.
The information – including records from severely traumatized patients across the country and from people treated after terrorist attacks – was collected by the university for research purposes.
In its warning to health authorities, the university said it did not know how many patients were affected and whether names were also hacked.
An NHS document viewed by The Independent Said specialist analysis showed that the university’s backup servers were accessed, but it was not known who was behind the attack.
Due to the incident, UoM NHS bosses were warned that “there is a possibility that NHS data will be made publicly available” and the record has since been closed.
Some patients will not know that they are included in the database set up in 2012 because they did not have to consent to be included in the database.
According to an analysis by the university, around 250 gigabytes of their data were accessed.
In an unrelated incident on August 5 last year, a separate hack led to the failure of the software used to access patient records at NHS 111, a dozen psychiatric foundations, community hospitals and GP services outside of business hours.
The outage lasted weeks and led to significant safety risks, for example because patients were prescribed the wrong dose of medication and doctors could not correctly assess mentally ill patients.
The Independent previously reported on warnings from experts that the NHS could face further attacks amid fears cybersecurity was weakened in the wake of the pandemic.
Last weekend, 999 services were hit by a serious incident as a technical fault at BT Internet, the lines operator, caused a delay in the routing of calls to emergency services. After the incident, patients were advised to call NHS 111 if they were unable to get through.
A University of Manchester spokesman declined to comment on the NHS data but did not deny the breach.
They said: “During the week of June 5th, we learned that the university was the victim of a cyber incident.
“On June 23, we confirmed that our systems had been accessed and that student and alumni data had been copied. Individuals were informed about this cyber incident and offered support and advice to further protect their data.
“Our investigations into the impact are ongoing and we continue to work with relevant authorities and partners, including the Information Commissioner’s Office, the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), the National Crime Agency and other regulators.
“Our internal data experts and external support are working around the clock to resolve this incident and respond to its impact, and we are unable to comment further at this time.”
A spokesman for the ICO said: “We can confirm that we have received a report of a ransomware attack at the University of Manchester and are evaluating the information provided.”
NHS England declined to comment.