UK: Privacy watchdog takes action after thousands of health records are stolen

Mark Hackett, the Chief Executive of Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust (SUHT), has made a formal commitment to improve data security after the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found SUHT in breach of the Data Protection Act.

On 19 October 2009 a member of SUHT staff left an unencrypted laptop containing sensitive personal information in a retinal screening vehicle. The vehicle was unlocked and unattended. The laptop contained around 33,000 password protected patient records including details about patients’ type of diabetes and results of retinal screening tests. The laptop was attached to the van by a security cable which was cut during the theft.

Sally-anne Poole, Head of Investigations at the ICO, said: “Storing large volumes of personal information on portable devices is unnecessarily risky. Why were so many records downloaded on to an unencrypted laptop in the first place? It is vital that NHS organisations ensure their staff handle personal information securely,
especially where so much sensitive personal information is concerned. I am pleased that SUHT has taken action to guard against security breaches of this nature in future.”

A copy of the Undertaking can be downloaded from

Source: Information Commissioner’s Office

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