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Trust fined £225k for leaving patient files in abandoned hospital

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Belfast Health and Social Care Trust has been fined £225,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office for leaving patient and staff files in an abandoned hospital.

The Belfast Trust became the latest NHS body to feel the wrath of the ICO after it left 100,000 patient records and 15,000 staff records in boxes, cabinets, on the shelves or on the floor of the Belvoir Park Hospital, closed since 2006.

"The Trust failed to take appropriate action to keep the information secure, leaving sensitive information at a hospital site that was clearly no longer fit for purpose. The people involved would also have suffered additional distress as a result of the posting of this data on the internet," the ICO said.

The Trust was landed with responsibility for the site, which had around 40 separate buildings that treated fever and then cancer patients, when six Trusts amalgamated in 2007. It arranged for the 26 acre site to be patrolled by two permanent security guards and five daily mobile patrols to supplement the CCTV on site.

However, by the end of 2007, faults in the CCTV and fire and intruder alarms meant they were no longer working so the guards were on their own. Vandals and trespassers got into the buildings and photographed records, which they then posted online, but the Trust didn't find out about it until someone else told it in March 2010.

The Trust arranged for an inspection of some of the buildings, but parts of the site were cordoned off due to asbestos concerns and a lot of the records had been damaged by damp and mould. The Trust upped security and fixed damaged doors and windows, but the Irish News reported in April last year that it was still possible to get onto the site.

The 100,000 patient records, some from as far back as the 1950s, included X-rays, microfiche records, copies of scans, lab results and other paper files. There were also 15,000 staff files, including unopened wage slips, in a building that had been vacated in 1992.

The Trust has now removed all the records from the site and either destroyed them or filed them properly, the ICO said. ®

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