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Data security lapses are damaging patients' trust and must be stopped

I write with regard to last week's story about data security lapses.

Obviously these are only those that have come to light. To think of what the actual figures might be is horrific.

The abuses detailed here are ludicrous - such behaviour just should never be occurring among staff or professionals.

I'm not sure there is any value in staff being able to access social networking sites, so these could be banned.

If the PCT has lost data, in cases where it has been corrupted and can no longer be accessed, then it is of no consequence to patients and they do not need to know.

But if the PCT has, even inadvertently, made those files available to a public arena, then, as a matter of priority for the patients' security, they and the local police should be informed immediately.

We shouldn't have access to our own family's medical records, although in rural areas we will from time to time find ourselves providing them with care, so will have to.

I would admit that when summarising notes in the surgery, I added my son's immunisation dates to his computer record myself as they were given overseas, so not on GP records back here. But anyone found interfering with the probity of any records here would certainly be dealt with very seriously.

I also think we should ensure proper patient consent is given before their data is shared deliberately.

Although generally in favour of electronic care records, I have concerns about the level of security and safety of the current system.

I'm appalled that patients were told they would be invited to give informed consent prior to such sharing, but later health boards took the information - despite the fact that some patients notes have their objection recorded in them - and made them available to unauthorised agencies contrary to the patients' recorded wishes.

This will not inspire confidence in our patients, and will lead to people keeping secrets to the detriment of their health because they do not want all their personal details shared willy-nilly with the sort of people your story has revealed exist within the health service.

This is a PR nightmare for the Government and the NHS and is very concerning to GPs, who already - on a daily basis - deal with people who are reluctant to share information, fearing it will be revealed to people they would not wish to know about it.

This leads to incorrect care, with the risk of adverse effects, even death, and the spread of uncontrolled infectious disease through the community.

It is imperative we return to a culture of higher trust in the NHS.

Dr David Church, Machynlleth, mid Wales

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