UK: The cancer diagnosis letter found in a car park, voicemails to the wrong person and a gate-crashed consultation: Hospital data breaches up 20% in a year

Madlen Davies reports:

Hospitals have seen the number of confidentiality breaches and losses of patient data rise by a fifth over the past year, with thousands of such incidents reported, a Pulse investigation reveals.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from 55 hospital trusts who were able to provide comparable year-on-year statistics show that the number of data breaches rose from 2,337 in 2011/12 to 2,805 in 2012/13 – a 20% year-on-year increase.

Common examples included patients being given a different patient’s details in error, patient information being given to a relative without their permission, voicemails left to the wrong person, letters left in public meeting rooms and letters sent to patients’ previous GPs.

Read more on Pulse

A commenter on Davies’ story wrote, in part:

I have knowledge of exactly the same breach occurring within the NHS and the private sector. The similarity between the two events was actually uncanny. The NHS breach was all over the local news and the private sector breach was kept under wraps threfore I’m less inclined to be concerned about what we do know as reported in this article and more concerned about what we dont (sic) know!

To which I’d respond: This is not either/or. We can, and should, be concerned about both. I see no value in withholding information about what we can know now (public sector) because of what we don’t yet know (private sector). The U.K. is lagging behind the U.S. in terms of disclosure of private sector breaches. But even here, there is still much we don’t know. The solution is more transparency, not less reporting on what is publicly available.

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