Maureen struggled back from Sainsbury’s. Friday; she did the weekly shop, put it in the back of the car, ready for home at the end of the day.
She collapsed at her desk. There was a shed-load of emails she had to do before the surgery kicked-off for the afternoon and evening stint.
She stirred her cuppa-soup and hit the space bar on her sleeping computer. She couldn’t believe it. On the screen a warning that was destined to be splashed across TV screens world wide.
She read and re-read the warning. ‘Oh god… what have I done?’ Maureen felt sick. She didn’t know about computers but she knew enough to know this was trouble. What had she done?
She’d had a quick look at Amazon-Prime, first thing. She was after a Bar-B-Q grill for the weekend. Had she downloaded something? She going to get the sack…
Ashen faced, she knocked on the practice manager’s door…
Two hundred miles away the flow through A&E was good. The bed manager was smiling. Very unusual. The paramedics were at the desk in the corner, filling in forms and talking about the game.
A&E consultant Alex Dupont felt his team were on top of things…
‘What the ….!’
Alex turned… in front of the screen the staff nurse was statue-like. Staring at the red warning millions were going to see on the news programmes.
‘Three hundred bitcoins or we suck the life out of your computer.’
One hundred miles south Ahmed’s phone rang. “IT support… “
A nervous voice said; “This is David O’Brien in pathology. You’d better come down. We’ve been hacked.”
And so it was; across the NHS stunned staff stared at their screens.
Ahmed said to himself; ‘It was only a matter of time’.
He rang his wife;
“Expect me when you see me”.
“Watch the news.”
He was right. NHS IT systems have been a ticking time bomb.
After a 7 year lead-in Microsoft finally pulled the pug on support for Windows XP in 2014. It had become an industry standard. The prison service, schools, Foreign Office, military, submarines and just about everyone used XP. Maybe the most stable platform Microsoft have developed.
Stable platforms don’t make money. A new product was needed.
If BMW said your car is 10 years old and we won’t service it, there would be an outcry. Microsoft got away with it. They dumped XP.
The new Crown Commercial Service purchasing agency coughed-up £5m for an additional year’s support for XP, across government. The Dutch did the same.
By the end of 2015 there hadn’t been enough money to upgrade operating systems to the confusing Windows 8. Let’s face it, there wasn’t enough money in the system to do yer granny’s operation.
Estimates said; 85% of the 800,000 PCs in the NHS were still running XP.
Software procurement no longer a national strategic imperative. The NHS was stunned, Trusts ‘were free’ to do deals with Microsoft. The problem; Bill Gates doesn’t do free deals. Anyway, every available shilling was being diverted into front-line care.
They struggled-on with obsolete systems that underpinned tailor-made proprietary systems, operating systems and communication systems.
Last year a third of Trusts had fended-off malware attacks on the clapped-out software and somehow managed to reduce reliance on XP to 4.7%.
Yes, a fix-it patch was cascaded ten working days ago… but in a Trust with 8,000 computers, hundreds of lap-tops and IT department pared to the bone by cuts, it’s not an over-night job… as Nissan, Fed-Ex, Spanish Telephonica and thousands of companies in 90 countries will tell you.
DH Exemplar IT funding has been stalled, probably pinched to reduce over-spends.
Maureen cried. She was convinced if she hadn’t looked for a Bar-B-Q none of this would have happened. Alex diverted A&E patients, resorted to pen, paper, texts and pictures on mobile phones.
Ahmed got home just after lunch on Sunday. He was back at six this morning.
Someone called Amber Rudd said Trusts were providing services within their ‘business continuity plans‘. Code for struggling-by, elegantly.
The NHS wasn’t held to ransom… if you exclude Microsoft.