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UK doctor loses unencrypted laptop containing patient data

Sticks and stones may break my bones but data loss really riles me

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A UK doctor faces a disciplinary inquiry after an unencrypted laptop containing confidential patient data was stolen from his home.

The unnamed junior medic acted against regulations set by the Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, his employers. The doctor took unencrypted patient information – including names, dates of birth, the treatments – on 1,147 patients and loaded it onto his laptop, which was stolen in November. The medic waited for two weeks before informing his superiors about the theft.

Hospital bosses have written to orthopaedic patients (who had been treated for broken bones, hip replacements etc) in order to apologise. The medic was temporally suspended as a result of the incident but has now returned to work pending the results of a disciplinary hearing, This is Hull reports.

The local news outlet has a picture of irate mum Cathie Holmes, 37, of Beverley, whose daughter Mary, 12, was among those whose details were exposed. Hospital bosses wrote a letter to Mary about the breach, a move that incensed her mum. "You can't send a letter of that magnitude to a child and expect them to understand it," she said.

The breach is the third incident of personal data exposure to affect Hull residents in less than a year, following an earlier snafu involving the theft of sensitive data from A4e and the unauthorised access of sensitive data by an NHS staffer.

Chris McIntosh, chief exec of encryption tools firm Stonewood, said hospital bosses were partly to blame for the latest incident.

"It is all very well organisations having regulations on data protection, yet if they can be easily broken by employees, whether knowingly or not, they become meaningless," McIntosh said.

"This doctor should never have had the opportunity to take unencrypted data home with him. Hull and East Yorkshire Trust needs to have more than regulations in place that simply shift the blame to employees," he added. ®

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