New study reveals state of NHS cyber-security

New research has revealed the state of cyber-security in the NHS and how it is linked to improving patient care and saving the organisation money in the future.

The independent research, conducted by cyber-security company Palo Alto Networks and market research company Vanson Bourne, asked 100 NHS IT decision makers about the importance of data security in the wake of recent cyber-attacks. They were also questioned on how prepared the NHS is for approaching data protection rules and how Trusts are working towards getting patients interacting with NHS services.

The majority of respondents (90%) said that prioritising cyber-security in the NHS will help improve patient care through digitisation. Most agree (83%) that investment into cyber-security could help the NHS save £14.8 million on average each year.

The respondents also estimated that improved cyber-security could save enough money to allow the NHS to employ an addition 150 doctors and 250 nurses.

The topic of data security was examined with 65% of respondents believing that cyber-security would improve the level of patient trusts. Almost half (49%) think it can streamline processes and 45% see long-term cost-savings as a result.

With recent cyber-attacks such as WannaCry affecting services, NHS IT managers believe that more can be done to encourage a robust and widespread cyber-security culture through improved training and education.

Only a minority of NHS IT professionals said that front-line staff who access IT security receive cyber-security training, including administrators (30%), doctors (11%) and nurses (6%).

More so, IT decision makers mostly believe that patients have a good or complete level of trust in how the NHS uses their data. A quarter or respondents however believe patients have minimal trust in how the NHS stores their data. More than 1 in ten (16%) also reckon patients put very little trust in how their data could then be used by the NHS.

When it comes to GDPR, IT decision-makers within the NHS are generally informed about the changes coming into effect in 2018. 83% said they have had guidance from senior management about compliance, and 95% say they are aware of what they need to do to comply.

About the study, Dave Allen, regional vice president, Western Europe, Palo Alto Networks, said: “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 cybersecurity to maintain trust, while capitalising on its exponential data growth. Preventing successful cyberattacks 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.”