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Prime Minister's health records breached in database attack

Scottish rich and powerful victimized

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Personal medical records belonging to Scotland's rich and powerful - including Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Holyrood's First Minister Alex Salmond - have been illegally accessed in a breach of a national database that holds details of 2.5 million people.

The files contained names, ages, addresses, and occupations of the patients, in addition to medical information such as a list of any current medications and allergies to medicines, according to The Sunday Mail. The records of BBC newswoman Jackie Bird (an earlier version of this story mistakenly referred to her as "newsman") and former Labour leader Jack McConnell and his culture chief wife Bridget were also accessed.

The files were part of the Emergency Care Summary system database, which was established three years ago amid guarantees by the NHS that it was protected using the "highest standards of security." NHS staff generally have to ask patients' permission before reading records except when a patient is unconscious or otherwise unable to give consent.

An NHS Fife doctor has been charged with contravention of the Data Protection Act in the case and appeared on petition at Dunfermline in late December. He made no plea or declaration and isn't scheduled to appear again in court until later this year.

Government officials quoted by The Sunday Mail said the breach didn't appear to be motivated by financial gain and that the only thing linking the victims was that they were famous or had a high public profile.

It's at least the second security breach to personally hit a British government official in as many weeks. UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw recently saw his Hotmail account ransacked by advanced fee fraudsters, who used it to send his contacts a scam email claiming he was in desperate need of financial assistance after being stranded in Nigeria. ®

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