Cyber Security: My Flexi Placement at Department of Health and Social Care

Posted by: Wendy MacMillan - Posted on:

It’s my first week since I swapped my blue NHS lanyard for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) logo. I’ve just joined the Cyber Security and Innovation team here in London for two months and I thought you may want to read some of my initial reflections.

What does cyber security have to do with being an NHS general manager?
A lot actually. Aside from the fact our new secretary of state for health is super enthusiastic about healthcare technology, hopefully you’ll have heard and read about ‘WannaCry’, the cyber virus which caused havoc across the UK in our healthcare systems in May 2017. It’s not just IT infrastructure which holds the key to keeping these virus’ and hackers out of our precious systems, it’s our behaviour and attitude at work, something which I can hopefully influence as an NHS leader. How cyber aware are you and your colleagues? If they use online banking for example they’ll know to change passwords, not write crucial details down or leave their devices unlocked for anyone to physically access without their knowledge. But is their attitude the same at work? Perhaps not. Passwords stuck to sticky notes attached to computer systems, devices and WIFI networks not properly locked from people who shouldn’t have access could all cause us problems. In the NHS we prioritise confidentiality but if we aren’t vigilant with our cyber security we leave our data and systems in a vulnerable position.

What kind of stuff are you up to?
To support change and transformation within our NHS, I know I need to continually expand my knowledge and skillset. As well as working specifically on cyber security projects and policies, I’m also experiencing the day to day life working in a government department. DHSC is supported by 15 arm’s length bodies and several other agencies and public bodies. They are responsible for lots of things including advising ministers, setting the direction for policy, holding the arm’s length bodies to account and ensuring the policy, legislative, financial and administrative frameworks are fit for purpose. I’m spending time working with these other organisations like NHS England/Digital/Improvement, gathering information and supporting the responses to external public questions. There’s also plenty of internal ‘show and tell’ meets from departments sharing their work; a great chance to see what might be coming in the future!

How are you feeling?
Tired and a bit out of my depth! However, I do keep reminding myself I felt the same way a year ago when I first started the scheme and that feeling does dampen down. It’s impossible for me to become an expert in this area over the two months but if I bring back some knowledge to share and a better understanding of the department in general I’ll have achieved what I wanted to.

When deciding on your flexi organisation, perhaps consider the key issues facing the NHS and look for external organisations who are facing or tackling similar issues. That way you’ll be able to bring a different view or skillset back to the NHS on this topic. Not only am I working on a project which will be relevant throughout my NHS career, the DHSC has some amazing speakers, training and networking events which I am making the most of while I’m there. I’m very grateful to be working with such a great team at DHSC who have let me be as nosey as possible with all my questions!

If this stuff is speaking to your inner geek and you want to know more about what it’s like to do your flexi at DHSC then don’t hesitate to reach out on twitter @WendyMacm

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