Cyber security key to improving patient trust and care

Palo Alto Networks, the next-generation security company, has released findings of independent research into the state of cyber security within the NHS.

Working with Vanson Bourne, 100 NHS IT decision-makers were surveyed on the importance of data security in the wake of recent cyberattacks, preparedness for forthcoming tougher data protection rules and the development of trust when it comes to how patients digitally interact with the NHS. 

The study reveals NHS IT managers’ awareness and understanding of how the Department of Health is planning to radically change cyber security requirements for healthcare providers.

The vast majority of respondents (90 per cent) believe that prioritizing cyber security in the NHS will unlock the potential of digitalisation to improve patient care.

They also agree that cyber security investment could enable substantial savings in the long run (83 per cent), saving £14.8 million nationally each year on average.

The survey’s respondents estimated that improved cyber security would save enough money to allow for an additional 150 doctors and 250 nurses within the NHS.


All respondents agreed on the importance of keeping data secure. The benefits of cyber security are believed to have a wide significance.

65 per cent believe that it would improve the level of patient trust, almost half (49 per cent) think it would streamline processes and 45 percent see long-term cost-savings as a result. 

With recent cyber attacks such as WannaCry affecting front-line services, NHS IT managers say that more can still be done to cultivate a robust and widespread cyber security culture within the NHS, through improved training and education.

However, while 41 percent felt that all staff should receive specific training, only a minority of NHS IT professionals said that front-line staff who accessed IT systems receive cyber security training, such as administrators (30 per cent), doctors (11 per cent) and nurses (6 per cent).

In a sector that is increasingly digitized and reliant on data, patient confidence in how their data is used and stored is essential.

The research found that IT decision-makers mostly think that patients have a good or complete level of trust in how the NHS uses or stores their data (81 per cent and 67 per cent, respectively).

However, a quarter of respondents believe that patients have minimal trust in how the NHS stores their data.

More than 1 in ten (16 per cent) also reckon patients put very little trust in how their data could then be used by the NHS. In order to tackle this trust gap, prioritization of cyber security is seen as key (89 per cent).

“Digitisation can reap considerable benefits for NHS patients and staff, yet the capacity to save money and improve patient care through more seamless, digital processes is dependent on how the NHS leverages cyber security to maintain trust, while capitalising on its exponential data growth.

“Preventing successful cyber attacks will be paramount in reducing disruption to medical services and improving patient trust, leading to the greater ability to use data to improve health outcomes,” said Dave Allen, regional vice president, Western Europe, Palo Alto Networks.

When it comes to GDPR, IT decision-makers within the NHS are generally informed about the changes coming into effect in 2018.

Eighty three percent have had guidance from senior management about compliance, and 95 percent say they are aware of what they need to do to comply.

The majority of respondents (58 per cent) think that their NHS organization will be ready for GDPR by May 2018, and 16 percent even believe the NHS is already compliant.

Nonetheless, more than three-quarters (77 per cent) realize that their organization’s IT systems still need improving to ensure data-handling compliance.