Private data of NHS patients shared with strangers including HIV status after 3,500 breaches in two years

THE private data of thousands of NHS patients including HIV status has been wrongly shared to strangers, new figures show.

According to shocking statistics from the Information Commissioner’s Office there were 3,557 NHS data breaches in the past two years  – more than any other public, private or charitable organisation.

One example saw a patient receive £10,000 in compensation after their GP disclosed medical details, including their HIV status, the Independent reports.

One woman’s medical records were disclosed by a GP practice, without her consent to her former partner, after he requested copies of their child’s health records.

In one instance, strangers turned up at a woman’s door after her home address was mistakenly sent to other patients.

Lawyer Laura Wilkinson, from data rights specialists JMW Solicitors, said there has been a three-fold increase in health related data breaches in the last year.

“These are mistakes which often have devastating consequences for those affected,” she said.

“Anyone attending a doctor’s surgery, hospital or clinic takes for granted that this incredibly sensitive information about them will be properly looked after.”

There were 866 instances in which personal data was emailed or physically posted to the wrong person, between April 2019 and March 2021, says the ICO.

Other blunders included losing paperwork or devices such as laptops – and in 12 cases data had been deliberately altered without consent.

The breaches included 456 instances in which patient data was sent to the wrong recipient.

There were a further 225 cases in which private information was either stolen, lost, or left in an insecure location.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Data security is the responsibility of each individual local NHS organisation which all have robust processes in place so breaches do not happen.

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“The NHS regularly shares national guidance and resources with local organisations, including GP practices and hospitals, to ensure information is kept safe and secure.

“The GP Data for Planning and Research programme will help the NHS unlock the benefits of data to help save lives.

“It will use a trusted research environment to protect the data, which means the data will only be accessed through a secure environment, by approved researchers, for specific projects. “

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