HEALTH chiefs have slammed a cruel e-mail hoax that has alarmed Halton patients.

Thousands of people across the country were sent a hoax email in the last week telling them they may have cancer.

The message has deliberately been made to appear to be from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), entitled ‘Important blood analysis result.’ It advises patients that their white blood cell count was found to be low after a recent blood test, and that they should visit their GP immediately as cancer is suspected.

Chris Horner, from the communications team at Warrington and Halton Hospitals, said:“We’ve been contacted by some local patients who have received this e-mail and have naturally been very worried.

“Because so many people have blood tests as part of tests or routine care, and it has been sent to thousands of e-mail addresses across the country, the spam email was received by some of our patients who are waiting for results or have just had tests.

“We’ve been able to reassure them about it as NICE reacted very quickly to the issue.

“It’s a very malicious trick to play on people that looks like it comes from a creditable source.

“NICE’s advice has been to simply delete the e-mail and not to open any links contained in it.”

The hoax e-mail is believed to have come from spammers in Turkey and India who have simply sent it to thousands of e-mail addresses.

Because so many people have blood tests as part of routine hospital care, many people have opened the e-mail and it has caused them unnecessary alarm or worries that personal data has been hacked.

NICE is a national NHS body and does not hold any actual patient data of this kind.

NICE has said they have reported it to the police.