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NHS data-security scandal warning


5 September, 2008  

The medical records of thousands of NHS patients held on unprotected memory sticks could easily go missing, according to a survey reported in the Health Service Journal.

It says the study among 92 doctors at an unnamed teaching hospital in London could easily be replicated across the UK.

The sticks contain patients’ names, dates of birth and medical information such as X-ray results, diagnoses and treatment. They can be attached to keys or ID badges carried inside and outside hospitals, which can easily be mislaid.

The report warns that it is a clear breach of data security, and the NHS may soon find itself on the list of public-sector organisations involved in security scandals.

Although the survey was carried out in one hospital, there is “no reason why this lack of security would not be mirrored across every hospital in the UK and beyond”, the report says.

It adds that, in the past, patient information would have been kept in notebooks. “Traditionally this would be in doctors’ notebooks, and loss of that would be a breach of data security. But now the problem is that people have hundreds of thousands of kilobytes of patient information that gets put on these sticks and carried around.”

Copyright PA Business 2008

Health Service Journal