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Lib Dems call for new NHS data security rules

Lamb demands raised standards

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The Liberal Democrats have called on the government to accept a set of priorities to stop the loss of confidential patient data from the health service.

The party's shadow health secretary Norman Lamb has set out the priorities following the revelation, prompted by freedom of information (FoI) requests by the Lib Dems, of more than 150 data losses by NHS organisations.

In a letter to the health secretary, Lamb called for five measures:

  • The Department of Health should publish minimum standards for the protection of data on mobile devices and ensure that all NHS staff are aware of their particular responsibilities.
  • Patient records should not be stored on mobile devices and strict rules must apply to control the copying of data. Any exceptions must be authorised after a risk assessment.
  • All mobile data devices should be protected through appropriate security controls, including the use of authentication, encryption, and other technical separation controls as well as registration and allocation of devices to an 'owner'.
  • Lapses in standards of care should be regarded as potential serious misconduct.
  • The government should formally abandon its plans for a national patient database.

The incidents revealed by the FoI requests include the theft of an entire GP practice system, confidential patient information being posted to the wrong people and a patient record loss so serious that 25 patients were visited by the police and NHS management.

"These reports show utterly shocking lapses in security," said Lamb. "The degree of negligence in some cases is breathtaking given the absolute sensitivity of personal patient data.

"We already know from the information commissioner that the NHS is among the worst offenders for data loss, reporting as many incidents as the entire private sector."

"There must be a fundamental re-examination of how the NHS deals with personal data. The NHS should regard lapses of standards of care as potential serious misconduct."

In a statement to GC News, a Department for Health spokesperson said: "The NHS locally has legal responsibility to comply with data protection rules. They are expected to take data loss extremely seriously, be open about incidents and about the action taken as a result."

David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS, has written to all senior health managers reminding them of their responsibilities about data security.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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