May 17, 2020

Boosting the UK's blood stocks for London 2012

NHS Blood and Transplant
London 2012
5 min
NHSBT's 'body-artery' campaign
There are just over six weeks left until the start of the London 2012 Olympics and with the London 2012 Paralympics following just weeks after, all eye...

There are just over six weeks left until the start of the London 2012 Olympics and with the London 2012 Paralympics following just weeks after, all eyes are on England’s capital city to see how it will host an international sporting event of such magnitude. But as London 2012 will be the city’s third time hosting the Games, hopefully everything will run smoothly and go as planned.

So rather than focusing on the readiness of the Olympic stadium and the rest of the venues around the country, Healthcare Global decided to look at how services, such as the National Health Service (NHS), in the UK are preparing for the Games.

One arm of the NHS that is working particularly hard to make sure it is ready to handle the potential health needs of an extra 1.2 million visitors to the UK this summer is NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT). Since late 2011/early 2012, NHSBT has been trying to make people aware of the importance of blood donations not only in the run up to London 2012, but also during 2012’s other major events; Euro 2012, Wimbledon and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration.

“What we’ve got is what’s called a perfect storm,” explains Jon Latham, Assistant Director of Donor Marketing, NHSBT. “We know from research that when there is a big sporting event we see a drop off in collections, because people are interested in watching the event and either they miss their appointments to donate, or don’t even make them in the first place.”

As a result, NHSBT is trying to boost its blood stocks by 30 percent by the start of London 2012, not only because it knows people will get distracted from their appointments during the summer, but because some areas of England will be more difficult to access while the Games are on, further preventing people from giving blood.  

Although it is trying to boost stocks of all the eight blood types, Latham says NHSBT is particularly keen to increase supplies of O- (the universal blood type that can be given to anyone), B- and A- (which are particularly popular in African and Asian communities), and O+ (the most common blood type in the UK).

“We’re trying to collect as much as we can of those four, so we don’t have too much pressure when dealing with people who have come into the country,” he says.

 “As a service we optimise the amount of blood that we hold at any one time, not maximise it. You reach a point where you can’t collect any more blood because you haven’t got enough storage around the country, so a 30 percent boost is the quantity we’ve identified to give us the confidence to be able to meet any potential demand this summer. But it’s also the amount, from an operational perspective, which is the right amount to be holding across England and Wales.”

So what is NHSBT doing to achieve this 30 percent increase? Well, encouraging donors to make appointments and attend blood donor sessions at the right time is the main thing. It has also put on extra sessions and extended the times of existing ones, giving donors as much choice as possible when they are booking their appointments.

It has also launched two campaigns to raise awareness of its efforts. The first was a visual spectacle in the form of ‘body art-ery’. Eight volunteers appeared in London, with blood vessels painted on them from head to toe. The recipients of the blood transfusions were there too, simulating the transfer of blood from one arm to another.

“It was part of a much bigger announcement, but from a visual point of view it helped get the message over very clearly,” commented Latham. “It wasn’t there to shock, it was all about getting the message across that we need this 30 percent increase by the Olympics.”

NHSBT’s ‘body art-ery’ campaign:

NHSBT’s efforts have also been supported by eight celebrities, with each one representing a different blood type. Dubbed ‘Team Give Blood’, captains include ex-footballer Gary Lineker, Olympic gold medallist and ice-skater Jayne Torvill, and Olympic skier Graham Bell. They will be using their own social media channels to encourage members of the public to donate and become part of Team Give Blood.

Gary Lineker is part of NHSBT’s ‘Team Give Blood’ campaign:

According to Latham, NHSBT is already noticing the results of its numerous campaigns. “We’ve seen more people coming forward, and if we look at our appointment grid it’s fuller than we would normally expect at this point in time. So we know that people have listened and heard the appeal, but it wasn’t a one off, we have to keep going with our messaging and make sure we get donations in before the Olympics.”

In terms of meeting anticipated demand this summer, Latham is confident NHSBT will have reached its target of a 30 percent increase and will be ready when Olympic-fever grips the UK. “It’s the biggest challenge I’ve ever had to do, but I’m pretty confident we’ll do it,” he declares. “The London area is certainly one that we are very conscious will be a hotspot, but I wouldn’t underestimate the impact of the Olympics outside of London.”

NHSBT will now be using National Blood Week in the UK (13-19 June) and World Blood Donor Day (14 June) to push their campaign for the final time before the start of London 2012.

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Jun 13, 2021

How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats

Jonathan Miles
6 min
Jonathan Miles, Head of Strategic Intelligence and Security Research at Mimecast, tells us how the healthcare sector can protect itself from attacks

One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority.  In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.

The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics. 

From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world. 

Going digital 

The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years. 

This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate. 

Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.

To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care. 

Strengthening defences

Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change. 

It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device. 

These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.

Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement: 
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.

In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.

Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents. 

Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.

This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents. 
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.

Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.

As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.  

Fighting future threats

With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.

To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced. 

This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.

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