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Can cyber meltdowns ever have an upside?


07 Jul 2017

So, when the chips are down….or, at least, when the computers are.

There I was in mid-consultation when the screen froze. This was followed by an urgent hammering on the door, which I opened to reveal a frantic practice manager and computer operator ordering me to turn off my computer, unplug everything electrical and generally go into lockdown. And that was how I found out about the NHS network cyber-attack.

Suddenly, I was a) Wondering what was going on b) Wondering even more how we were going to cope on a typically hectic Friday afternoon. No notes, no access to lab results, no printing of prescriptions – and therefore absolutely no hope of making it to close of play without a tension headache.

Which was bad enough, but as events unfolded, it became clear that this was going to be rather more than a temporary inconvenience. And that begged the question, what were we going to do about repeat prescriptions?

The prospect of dysfunctional patient interactions and laborious sessions of handwritten scripts loomed large. Wannacrypt? Wannascript, more like. So my practice manager and I resorted to the only reasonable option – we started tearing our hair out.

And it was at this point that the phone rang: one of our local pharmacists was on the line, unsolicited, volunteering to provide emergency supplies of medication to any patient who needed them. Moments later, another pharmacist rang with the same uber-helpful suggestion.

Now, I realise I’ve had occasion, in this column, to be gratuitously rude about, and even question the very point of, pharmacists. And I can’t promise it won’t happen again. But, just for that glorious moment, there we were, GP and pharmacist, running hand-in-hand through fields of soft-focus corn with the sole aim of making life better for our patients. It was enough to make me well up.

It’s all over now of course, so I assume we’re back to mutual loathing.


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