My cyber-attack week

By Sibby Buckle, RPS English Pharmacy Board

What a week this has been!  On Friday 12 May 2017, IT systems in 47 NHS trusts in England and 13 NHS organisations in Scotland came under attack from a global malicious software attack. Here’s the latest from NHS Digital.

I work in a community pharmacy in Nottingham and first became aware of a problem when the systems of local GP surgeries and hospitals went down.  Over the weekend in the face of the cyber attack, our pharmacy and countless others continued to do what we always do, delivering fantastic patient care, giving advice and dispensing patients medicines in a timely, safe and efficient manner.

Returning to work on the Monday morning, I was bombarded with messages from my dispensing colleagues. The surgeries had been on the phone first thing to confirm that their systems were still down, and even their faxes weren’t working. After we confirmed that our patient medication record systems were completely in order and working well, they requested us to provide 7 day emergency supplies for all repeat medicines and to fax the requests to them later in the week when they were back up and running. This wasn’t a problem for us, we’re already set up to provide emergency supplies and the SOP’s are in place.  Following consultations with the patients, that is exactly what we did, ensuring that no patient went without their medicines and that any inconvenience was kept to a minimum.

What was interesting was the number of green FP10 handwritten Rx’s over those next few days. I know some GP’s were quite exercised by this challenge and deciphering the difference between a scrawled TDS, BDS, QDS,
TID, BID or QID became a pleasant distraction from the often indifferent direction on an EPS Rx such as 1-2 3 daily, or 2 or 3 daily, with no quantity specified! This is where a pharmacist’s expert understanding of dosages and knowing at a glance if that direction was right or wrong is essential. I did enjoy posology at University!

And then came the OTC requests. I felt for one dear elderly lady who came in to buy co-codamol for her husband suffering with terminal cancer – she was told that the GP’s were only seeing emergency patients and that she could buy co-codamol from the pharmacy. I was glad to be able to help her and yet again it drew our attention to just how important patient centred care is.

And so the week went by, with repeat prescription volumes down, but walk-ins and over the counter consultations up. It reinforced to me how much more enjoyable I find  it when I’m able to have those real in depth consultations with our patients.

And so, I’m moving forward even more determined to fight for repeat medicines for long term conditions being managed by pharmacists, for pharmacists to be given prescribing rights (with the appropriate clinical training), and for medicines reconciliation to be managed by the experts in medicines – yes, us, pharmacists.

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