NHS email blunder clogs up system after message sent to 840000 employees – Telegraph.co.uk

Experts estimate that nearly 200 million unnecessary emails were dispatched in the first four hours after the original message was sent, which is understood to have come from an NHS IT contractor in the Croydon area at 8.46 am.

Health bosses originally said the email had been sent to all NHS Mail account holders by accident, but they later said a “bug” was to blame.

Some users said their accounts were so clogged as to be unusable, while others reported being unable to log on at all.

Even after IT specialists deleted the at-fault distribution list, accounts were still paralysed as millions of emails worked their way through the system.

The platform is principally used by GP surgeries and those working in community care and can be used to communicate sensitive patient data.

On Monday night primary care leaders said the breakdown had “serious” implications for patient care

“Healthcare professionals rely on email to communicate with each other, so it’s essential that we have a secure platform, such as NHS Mail, to do so,” said Professor Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of GPs.

Frontline staff were less measured, however.

One renal surgeon posted on Twitter:  “I hope they reserve a special place in hell for those insisting on replying to all.”

Another user, a health service manager, said: “So essentially #NHSmail users have all just carried out a DDoS [distributed denial of service] attack on themselves.”

The current system, formally known as NHS Mail 2, was introduced in May, implemented under a Department of Health contract by the professional services firm Accenture and business technology company Avanade.

It is used across the both the English and Scottish health services, although the problem only affected the 840,000 accounts in England.

“Mistakes happen, of course, but when it means urgent messages about patient care aren’t getting through, or that receiving important information is delayed, it becomes a very serious issue,” said Professor Baker.

“We hope this situation with NHS Mail can be rectified swiftly, and question whether such a situation was foreseen in the risk assessment, and whether mitigating actions, such as safeguards being put in place or guidance issued as to how to properly use the platform, will be taken to avoid this happening again.”

Dr Andrew Hartle, a senior anaesthetist at St Mary’s Hospital in London, said NHS Mail had to a large extent replaced phone calls between clinicians.

“We have come to rely very heavily on it,” he said.

“It’s interesting that no matter how secure a system is, something simple like this can bring it down.”

“We should ban “reply to all” – it’s the bane of everyone’s life.”

A spokesman for NHS Digital said “a number of email accounts have been operating slowly”.

“This was due to an NHS email user setting up an email distribution list which inadvertently included everyone on the NHS email system.

“As soon as the issue was identified we disabled the distribution list so that no one else could respond to it.”

Responding to accusations on social media, Croydon Health Services NHS Trust issued a statement denying they were responsible for the initial email.

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