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NHS is top sector for data losses

300 breaches in 3 years

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The NHS has reported 305 data breaches to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) since November 2007.

The figure for the NHS compares to 288 for the private sector, 132 for local government and 18 for central government. "It could be because of reporting differences or the NHS could be more prone to data breaches because they are dealing with sensitive data," an ICO spokesperson said.

The greatest cause of NHS data breaches was theft of hardware, with 116 incidents where equipment containing personal data was stolen. A further 87 incidents involved health service organisations losing hardware containing personal information.

The figure also includes 43 incidents where information was wrongly disclosed, 17 where data was "lost in transit", 13 cases involving the non-secure disposal of IT and 17 because of technical or procedural failures.

In July 2009 five NHS trusts were reprimanded by the ICO for failing to encrypt data. They included London's Royal Free Hampstead trust, which lost an unencrypted CD containing data on 20,000 cardiology patients, and Hampshire Partnership trust, after an unencrypted laptop with data on 349 patients and 258 staff was stolen at a conference.

The ICO began publishing data breaches after the loss of 25 million child benefit records by HM Revenue and Customs.

David Smith, the deputy information commissioner, said: "Extra vigilance is required so that people's personal information does not end up in the wrong hands.

"Organisations should have clear security and disclosure procedures that staff can understand, properly implement these and ensure that they are being followed by staff. Staff must be adequately trained not just in the value of personal information, but in how to protect it."

This article was originally published at Kable.

Kable's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

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