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Welsh NHS fined £70k for patient psych file leak blunder

Email address typo leads to ICO spank first

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The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has slapped its first fine on the NHS after a mental health patient's file was leaked in an email gaffe.

The ICO handed the Aneurin Bevan Health Board in Wales a bill for £70,000 for sending the sensitive information to the wrong person.

A consultant from the NHS organisation emailed a letter containing a detailed psychological report of a patient to a secretary for formatting. But the doctor used two different spellings for the patient's name, which resulted in the file being sent to the wrong person who had the name with the different spelling.

The ICO, which gained powers to hand out stiff fines about 18 months ago, doesn't always resort to what it calls civil monetary penalties when it's told or finds out about a breach of data protection law - but it fines bodies when it thinks that the right precautions haven't been taken.

In this case, the office's probe found that neither of the staff members had been given adequate training, and there weren't enough checks in place to stop private information falling into the hands of the wrong people.

"The health service holds some of the most sensitive information available. The damage and distress caused by the loss of a patient’s medical record is obvious, therefore it is vital that organisations across this sector make sure their data protection practices are adequate," the ICO's top enforcer Stephen Eckersley said in a canned statement.

"We are pleased that the Aneuvin Bevan Health Board has now committed to taking action to address the problems highlighted by our investigation; however organisations across the health service must stand up and take notice of this decision if they want to avoid future enforcement action from the ICO," he warned. ®

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