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1.8 million NHS patient records lost in a year

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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The Daily Mail has recently reported on the Official Statistics revealed by the NHS that at least 1.8 million sensitive papers went missing throughout the health service in just 12 months. This equates to 5,000 confidential records being lost daily by the NHS.

The Information Commissioner identified numerous breaches of the Data Protection Act breaches from July 2011-2012 and these included data security records left in public bins, electronic records found for sale on an internet auction site as well as details of terminally ill patients being faxed to the wrong number.

The Information Commissioner’s Office is now asking for powers to conduct compulsory audits on hospitals and NHS trusts. Worryingly, in the past year the Office has had to impose fines totalling almost £1 million on the Trusts and the hope is that compulsory audits would cut down the number of breaches occurring.

Those fined included Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Foundation (£325,000) who lost 69,000 patient records that were later offered for sale on an internet auction site. Belfast Health and Social Care Trust was also fined £225,000 for dumping 100,000 confidential paper records at a disused hospital site and Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust was fined £90,000 for faxing over 59 patient records containing ‘confidential and sensitive data’ to the wrong number. 

Mr Pickles, Director of privacy campaign group ‘Big Brother Watch,’ said: “These figures may be shocking, but they will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the NHS’s track record for dealing with patient data.

“There is a real risk that if the NHS doesn’t sort out how it looks after patients’ details people will stop sharing information with their doctor and that could be extremely dangerous for care.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office stated: “The Heath Service holds some of the most sensitive personal information available, so it’s vitally important that patients’ information is being kept secure.”

By Sarah Fairclough

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