Cybersecurity cited as essential to improving NHS patient trust and care


Palo Alto Networks has released findings of independent research into the state of cybersecurity within the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Working with Vanson Bourne, 100 NHS IT decision-makers were surveyed on the importance of data security in the wake of recent cyberattacks, preparedness for forthcoming tougher data protection rules, and the development of trust when it comes to how patients digitally interact with the NHS.

The study reveals NHS IT managers’ awareness and understanding of how the Department of Health is planning to radically change cybersecurity requirements for healthcare providers.

The vast majority of respondents (90%) believe that prioritising cybersecurity in the NHS will unlock the potential of digitalisation to improve patient care. They also agree that cybersecurity investment could enable substantial savings in the long run (83%), saving £14.8 million nationally each year on average. The survey’s respondents estimated that improved cybersecurity would save enough money to allow for an additional 150 doctors and 250 nurses within the NHS.


Data security is a priority, but training is needed to boost prevention culture

All respondents agreed on the importance of keeping data secure. The benefits of cybersecurity are believed to have a wide significance, with 65 percent believing that it would improve the level of patient trust, almost half (49%) thinking it would streamline processes, and 45 percent seeing long-term cost savings as a result.

With recent cyberattacks such as WannaCry affecting front-line services, NHS IT managers say that more can still be done to cultivate a robust and widespread cybersecurity culture within the NHS, through improved training and education.

However, while 41% felt that all staff should receive specific training, only a minority of NHS IT professionals said that front-line staff who accessed IT systems receive cybersecurity training, such as administrators (30%), doctors (11%) and nurses (6%).


Professional concerns aired on patient trust in NHS data handling

In a sector that is increasingly digitised and reliant on data, patient confidence in how their data is used and stored is essential.

The research found that IT decision-makers mostly think that patients have a good or complete level of trust in how the NHS uses or stores their data (81% and 67%, respectively). However, a quarter of respondents believe that patients have minimal trust in how the NHS stores their data. More than one in 10 (16%) also reckon patients put very little trust in how their data could then be used by the NHS. In order to tackle this trust gap, prioritisation of cybersecurity is seen as key (89%).


GDPR may be on track in NHS, but big improvements still need to be made

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

The majority of respondents (58%) think that their NHS organisation will be ready for GDPR by May 2018, and 16% even believe the NHS is already compliant. Nonetheless, more than three-quarters (77%) realise that their organisation’s IT systems still need improving to ensure data-handling compliance.