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NHS bitchslapped by ICO on data security

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The Information Commissioner's Office is working with Connecting for Health to try to get the NHS to take data security seriously.

The news comes as another five NHS bodies sign undertakings with the regulator to improve processes.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: "The health service holds some of the most sensitive personal information of any sector in the UK. Millions of records are constantly being accessed and we appreciate that there will be occasions where human error occurs. But recent incidents such as the loss of laptops at NHS North Central London – which we are currently investigating – suggest that the security of data remains a systemic problem.

"The policies and procedures may already be in place but the fact is that they are not being followed on the ground. Health workers wouldn't dream of discussing patient information openly with friends and yet they continue to put information on unencrypted memory sticks or fax it to the wrong number."

Graham said the NHS needs a culture change to ensure data is properly looked after.

Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals recently had to apologise for sending patient records to the wrong fax number. Dunelm Medical Practice also admitted fax misuse and disclosing two patients' discharge letters.

East Midlands Ambulance Service lost an unencrypted memory stick with patient records on it.

Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust admitted to having left 29 patient records containing sensitive information in a public place and Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust also owned up to serial fax abuse.

The full ICO undertakings can be downloaded here. ®

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