A Scottish government investigation into the state of health service IT systems in the nation has concluded that the country is significantly worse off in this department than England.
Holyrood conducted an inquiry into the recent cyber attack on the NHS, and found that systems in Scotland could be vulnerable to similar assaults.
And leading Scots tech expert Professor Bill Buchanan suggested that the Scottish people must be aware that this is the case, calling on at the authorities to take urgent action.
The recent cyber attacks hit 11 of Scotland’s 14 territorial health boards, encrypting vital data on NHS computers and denying access to users unless a payment was made.
And Buchanan, of the Cyber Academy at Edinburgh Napier University, will appear before MSPs and warn them of the dire need for change.
“The main lesson we have learnt from the ransomware attack is that there is a complete under-investment in the delivery of an IT infrastructure in the NHS. The days of technicians plodding along with updates for desktop computers have gone, and centralised security policies and updates are a core part of most modern infrastructures,” Buchanan commented.
In the hope of improving the situation in Scotland, the esteemed academic has provided a raft of recommendations to lawmakers in Scotland.
Buchanan believes that an “open review” of current systems should be instigated in order to understand the “critical points of failure” within the Scottish healthcare IT systems.
The academic also suggests that “dynamic, robust and secure” IT systems should be the focus of future investment, with the aim of responding to “major threats” such as a sustained loss of power and malware infections.
Buchanan also envisages a “software patch” strategy which would see updates rolled out as serious threats are identified.
Sensitive data could also be controlled through greater encryption and control access.
“It is now time to take stock of the current state of cyber security within healthcare, and look at new ways of improving the access to health and social care systems. The aim should be to “allow data to flow, while minimising risks of data breaches and outages,” Buchanan commented.
And the expert went on to compare the situation in Scotland to England.
“In general, Scotland seems to be behind England in the creation of a robust, modern and dynamic healthcare infrastructure. Overall there is a general lack of citizen access, with weaknesses around the integration of primary and secondary healthcare, along with a general lack of integration with social care.”