Test message from IT contractor brings entire NHS email system offline

An estimated 186 million email messages were accidentally sent after an IT contractor emailed all 1.2 million NHS employees.

The entire email system of the NHS crashed on Monday after an IT contractor sent out a “test email” to all of the 1.2 million staff using the system.

News of the crash first appeared after NHS staff began to complain about the test email they had received from an IT contractor in Croydon on Twitter. The email itself was sent to everyone in the organisation and that along with the high number of replies sent out caused the entire email system to be overloaded and go offline.

NHS digital has noted that 840,000 accounts were affected by the test email and a health service statistician estimated that at least 186 million emails had been sent out by the IT contractor and those who replied to the initial message requesting to be removed from its list. Twitter user Colin McDonnel offered his thoughts on the situation in a tweet which read: “Slow handclap for the individual that sent a test email to the entire NHSMail user base, and bravo to those that “replied to all”....”

NHSMail users later received a message in response to the incident, saying: “An issue with a distribution list has meant that several test emails have been widely received by users. This has been exacerbated by recipients replying in response and increasing the volume of emails associated with the list.

“The impact of this issue has meant that some users are unable to access OWA (Outlook web access) due to the volume of emails being circulated.  The distribution list has been removed and associated emails are being traced and cleared.  In the meantime, users will experience slow performance with OWA and email delivery delays from internal and external sources to nhs.net addresses.”

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Anthony currently resides in South Korea where he teaches and experiences Korean technological advances first hand.