One Mistaken Email Results in a Reply All Tsunami for the UK’s NHS

Email Reply All Tsunami

A test Email mistakenly sent by an IT contractor working for the U.K’s NHS (National Health Service) resulted in their Email system grinding to a halt.

As reported by the UK Telegraph, the contractor accidentally sent a “test message" to the nearly 1 million NHS employees.

This was due to an NHS email user setting up an email distribution list which inadvertently included everyone on the NHS email system
— NHS Spokesman

However, what then occurred is that hundreds of NHS users began to “Reply All” to that errant Email. Everyone was asking what it was, why they had received it, and to be removed from the message.

Each “Reply All” of course copied everyone on the initial list. This resulted in nearly 200 million Emails flooding the NHS’s Email server within just a few hours.

More people then added to the problem by using “Reply All” to tell their colleagues to stop replying.  

The result is what I like to call a "Reply All Tsunami"!

According to the NHS, some Email accounts were so heavily clogged as to be unusable, whereas others were unable to even log-in. Even after the at-fault distribution lists was deleted, many Email accounts were still unusable as millions of Emails had to work their way through the Email system.

According to the NHS, more Email was sent in a single day then the system normally sees in an entire month!

As you can imagine, the NHS users (many of them doctors and healthcare providers), were not very happy with this situation!

I hope they reserve a special place in hell for those insisting on replying to all.
— NHS renal surgeon on Twitter
We should ban “reply to all” - it’s the bane of everyone’s life.
— NHS User

The NHS Email system is used primarily by surgeries, those working in community care settings, and to transmit critical patient data.  The NHS stated that the Email issue had “serious implications for patient care”.

It’s interesting that no matter how secure a system is, something simple like this can bring it down.
— NHS Spokesperson

So, what is the lesson to be learned here? 

Here is what you should do if you are part of a Reply-All Email Chain:

  • Nothing! Zip! Zero!

  • Do NOT Reply asking to be removed from the mailing list.

  • Do NOT Reply to other people asking them to stop Replying.

  • Simply Do Nothing.

Just ignore it and hope everyone else does the same !

If you receive an Email message that is clearly not intended for you, simply ignore it! Do not add to the Reply All Tsunami!
— Michael Einstein

It seems so obvious, but it is amazing how often I still see this problem occurring!

Have you ever been part of a Reply All Tsunami?

Do you think Reply All should be eliminated (or Restricted) from Email Systems?