Kick­ing out cy­ber virus

Ref does ex­tra time to tackle threat

Rutherglen Reformer - - General Election - Edel Ke­nealy

One of Scot­land’s top foot­ball of­fi­cials – who is also an NHS ser­vice man­ager in Ruther­glen – went into ex­tra time this week­end as he helped tackle the im­pact of the ran­somware cy­ber virus.

Paul O’Neill, of South La­nark­shire Health and So­cial Care Part­ner­ship, man­ages 100 front­line staff across Ruther­glen and Cam­bus­lang.

He was tasked with man­ag­ing sys­tems across the two towns when global hack­ers tar­geted the NHS and sev­eral or­gan­i­sa­tions across the world on Fri­day.

Paul, also a spe­cial­ist as­sis­tant ref­eree with the Scot­tish Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, drew on his ex­pe­ri­ence of pow­der keg fix­tures to deal with the chal­lenge – and also found time to of­fi­ci­ate a high-pro­file game dur­ing a non-stop week­end.

“The over­rid­ing fo­cus over the week­end was pa­tient safety and en­sur­ing we were able to pro­vide care for those re­quir­ing med­i­cal sup­port, es­pe­cially via the out of hours ser­vices,” he said.

“From Fri­day night, when we knew the or­gan­i­sa­tion had been af­fected, the first pri­or­ity was to make sure staff were fully aware of what was hap­pen­ing - even though there was no ac­cess to com­puter sys­tems we’d nor­mally use to com­mu­ni­cate.

“That meant pick­ing up the phones, tex­ting and a lot of face-to­face com­mu­ni­ca­tion. There was a tremen­dous ef­fort among all staff to get the word out. From there we also put con­tin­gen­cies in place, in­clud­ing pa­per-based sys­tems in out-of-hours to en­sure all the pa­tients who were coming in were seen by the pro­fes­sion­als they had to be seen by. And they were.”

Paul worked late into Fri­day evening, and was back on hand to lend sup­port through­out Sun­day morn­ing into Monday morn­ing.

In be­tween he man­aged to run the line dur­ing Spar­tans’ 3-0 vic­tory over Gretna 2008 in the semi-fi­nal of the Low­land League Cup. He said: “Some­one asked me if I was feel­ing tired given the ex­tended shift on Fri­day, the game and back into work on the Sun­day but there was a real team spirit and fo­cus to get on with the job.

“To draw a par­al­lel with a feisty foot­ball fix­ture, of which I’ve of­fi­ci­ated over a few, you can never be dis­tracted de­spite feel­ing like be­ing at the eye of the storm. That sense of fo­cus, de­spite the events un­rav­el­ling around us, was clear through­out the week­end.”

A spe­cially as­sem­bled strate­gic group at NHS La­nark­shire, led by chief ex­ec­u­tive Calum Camp­bell, made the de­ci­sion around 4pm on Fri­day to take pre­ven­ta­tive action to con­tain the dam­age by clos­ing down com­puter sys­tems.

IT pro­fes­sion­als worked round the clock to re­store vi­tal sys­tems and, to­gether with front­line staff, made sig­nif­i­cant progress to al­low the vast ma­jor­ity of out­pa­tient clin­ics and planned op­er­a­tions to go ahead on Monday.

There was a real team spirit and fo­cus to get on with the job

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