Industry Trends

Fortinet’s Partnership with the NHS Alliance in the UK – a Q&A

By Viktoriya Cherneva | February 03, 2017

At a time when the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) faces increasing cyber threats, Fortinet has partnered with the new NHS Alliance to help raise awareness of these threats and better protect our health service moving forwards.

Launched in 1948, the NHS has provided free health care, at the point of need, to residents of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales for more than 65 years. Over the years, the NHS has faced many challenges and adversities, with cyber crime being one of the latest and most topical. Like most healthcare organisations around the world, the NHS finds itself under constant attack from cyber criminals.

Over the past 12 months, a number of NHS organisations have been impacted by cyber crime, one of which is the largest NHS trust in England and another being a trust that had to cancel operations and divert trauma cases to a neighbouring hospital due to a ransomware attack. Ransomware attacks involve the use of malware to encrypt files, rendering them inaccessible until a ransom is paid, which for a healthcare organisation can be life critical. In addition to these high profile attacks, a Freedom of Information request in 2016, issued across multiple NHS trusts, revealed that 28 NHS trusts had been hit by ransomware, with another 31 declining the request.

These recent events make Fortinet’s partnership with the New NHS Alliance all the more significant. Fortinet partnered with the NHS Alliance and ITN Productions to help produce ‘Healthy Communities, Healthy People,’ a news and current affairs-style programme devoted to exploring the change and transformation that the NHS is currently undergoing. In an episode released in December, Fortinet addresses cybercrime and the threat it poses not only to the privacy of the UK’s citizens, but to the ability of NHS hospitals to deliver care to their communities.

We spoke with Fortinet’s Claire Silcock to discuss the importance of Fortinet’s partnership with the NHS Alliance.

What is the NHS Alliance?

The New NHS Alliance is an independent leadership body representing providers of care outside of hospitals. Neither a professional body nor a trade union, it is a patient-centered organisation bringing together a community of more than 10,000 individuals and organisations across primary care who believe innovation, connections, and integration are key to the sustainability of the NHS.

The goal of the NHS Alliance is to create a Community of Care, with true collaboration between policy makers, care providers, and care receivers. They believe that the NHS should move beyond illness prevention to health creation to address the growing gap in life expectancy by championing the ‘3Cs’ of control, contact, and communication. They believe that focusing on simply delivering services to a population can encourage dependency and drive up demand. Their ‘health creation’ approach involves partnerships with communities to develop solutions.

The NHS Alliance represents all providers of primary care, including general practitioners, community nurses, community eye, hearing and foot care specialists, community pharmacists, dentists and physiotherapists, and emergency services. NHS Alliance also represents determinants of health outcomes, like housing organisations, or those with an interest in maintaining good health, such as local authorities and health and well-being boards. The NHS Alliance works closely with providers and communities to identify and share the solutions needed to sustain the NHS. It also focuses on providing practical support to help drive the innovation it endorses.

Why did Fortinet decide to partner with the NHS Alliance?

As the only cyber security company offered this opportunity, we at Fortinet are honored to be able to work with the NHS Alliance to demonstrate our commitment to and understanding of the NHS. One of the NHS Alliance’s goals is to embrace new technologies such as telehealth, electronic medical records, and IT connectivity to improve patient access to care and enhance quality of care within increasingly constrained resources. The UK government is investing £4.2 billion (more than $5 billion) in NHS technology over the next 5 years, with a goal of making healthcare records fully digital by 2020 in order to facilitate information sharing. The NHS recognises, however, that those records MUST be secure or they risk jeopardising the public’s trust in the NHS. Fortinet welcomes the opportunity to help the NHS achieve these goals.

The UK government also understands the importance of partnerships and information sharing to achieve better security, which aligns perfectly with Fortinet’s ongoing efforts at promoting cooperation and the sharing of threat data worldwide in an effort to stay ahead of cybercriminals.

What is so special about being one of the first partners for this program?

We are the first and only cyber security partner in the programme. This differentiates us from our competitors in a unique way, in that it demonstrates that we are not just a sales organisation trying to profit from the NHS. Our involvement in this programme demonstrates our desire to truly partner with the NHS. This partnership shows that we share its values and understand the challenges it faces, and that we intend to help overcome these challenges collaboratively.

What does this mean for the healthcare industry in the United Kingdom?

The programme itself, and our involvement in it, demonstrate both our and the New NHS Alliance’s commitment to keeping the UK’s population well and safe. This is a new approach to health care that looks to transform the way in which organisations improve the health and well being of communities, which in turn will reduce the financial burden on the NHS itself. Fortinet’s objectives align with this - we want to help the NHS improve the safety of patient data, and in turn, increase efficiency and productivity.