Kicking out cyber virus
Ref does extra time to tackle threat
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