NHS IT managers cite prioritising cybersecurity as essential to improving patient trust and care

Independent research into the state of cybersecurity within the NHS has identified training as a significant opportunity for medical staff to support the NHS in prevention of successful cyberattacks

One hundred 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, conducted by Palo Alto Networks® (NYSE: PANW) in conjunction with Vanson Bourne, 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 prioritizing 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 £14.8m 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 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% 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 (six per cent).

Professional concerns aired on patient trust in NHS data handling

In a sector that is increasingly digitized 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 1 in ten (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, prioritization 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 percent 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 organization will be ready for GDPR by May 2018, and 16% even believe the NHS is already compliant. Nonetheless, more than three-quarters (77%) realize that their organization’s IT systems still need improving to ensure data-handling compliance.

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