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Hospital Healthcare Europe

Laptop theft highlights data issue


13 August, 2008  

Data protection experts have called for hospitals to use more effective encryption techniques after a laptop containing the personal data of thousands of patients was stolen.

An unnamed manager at Colchester Hospital in Essex has been sacked as a result of the theft, which happened when thieves broke into his car while he was on holiday in Edinburgh in June.

Peter Murphy, the hospital’s chief executive, said: “The unanimous decision of the disciplinary panel sends out a clear statement about how seriously the trust takes security and patient confidentiality.”

Commenting on the incident, Jamie Cowper, director of European marketing at data protection expert PGP Corporation, said it demonstrated the serious problems with security that exist within the public sector.

“(It) also shows that disciplinary bodies are getting increasingly tough with those people that contravene data protection policies,” he continued. “Clearly, the public sector wants to be seen to be addressing this problem.”

Mr Cowper added that the incident offered a valuable lesson to hospitals highlighting the need for encryption to be “implemented and managed on an enterprise-wide basis, not left up to the individual”.

He concluded: “Unless there is evidence of grievous misconduct, the responsibility for data security should lie with the organisation as a whole.”

Copyright PA Business 2008

PGP Corporation

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“Many doctors have patient files on their laptops. They use them in clinical activity, or for research, or to prepare a paper for publication. They do this work, at home, or when traveling or on holiday. Thieves are everywhere; you must sleep with your laptop under your pillow!” – Piero Pavlica, Bologna, Italy