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GPs targeted in growing wave of computer thefts

GP surgeries are being targeted in a growing wave of computer theft.

Practices in many areas, including Nottingham, Birmingham and Liverpool have reported break-ins on consecutive nights and on multiple occasions this year.

The spate of thefts, which have been concentrated in inner-city areas, has been attributed to practices using new technology, such as flat-screen monitors, which are easier to steal. The crime wave has prompted Nottingham City PCT to pay £30,000 to improve security at two of its most targeted practices.

Bulwell Health Centre has been broken into four times since Christmas, and has suffered £25,000 worth of damage and loss of computer equipment in the past 12 months.

Dr Herbal Pabla, a GP at the practice, said it was sad the PCT's cash had to be used for security rather than patient care.

He said: 'When we get a break-in it's very demoralising; there's all the mess, the effect on staff, and when it's computer equipment there's all the added problems of retrieving data.'

Bashford Health Centre, which will also benefit from the extra funding, has been targeted by thieves three times since September, and during the past 18 months break-ins have cost the practice an estimated £25,000.

Dr Trevor Mills, a GP at the practice, said criminals had moved on from targeting GPs' drugs cabinets to their computer equipment.

'We've already got CCTV now it looks like we might have to get some form of wire mesh grille, which is going to block out the light.'

Dr Mills added thieves were forced to leave more valuable equipment including flat- screen monitors during the most recent break-in because the practice had bolted them to the desk.

Eastern Birmingham PCT has offered grants of up to £5,000 to the hardest hit practices.

Dr Robert Morley, whose practice in the area has been broken into twice this year said extra cash for security would stop disruptions to patient care.

He said: 'PCTs should be putting money where it's needed and I feel that security is important.'

Police tips for improving the security

of your computer systems

lConsider having the computers secured in lock-down cages approved by the Loss Prevention Council. (Contact: or

lDo not put computers near windows. Thieves will smash them and just reach in and grab the computer without having to physically enter the building. Put blinds up at the windows – what thieves cannot see they do not often spend time trying to find and steal.

lAlways have the computers clearly security marked as this reduces the chances of them being stolen. It also reduces the value to the criminal as possible buyers will not want to risk buying equipment which may obviously appear to be stolen. Security marking the property improves the chances of the police getting a conviction against the offender if the goods are recovered (Contact

lA device can be fitted into the computer which allows it to be traced if the computer is connected to the internet. It sends a signal to a monitoring station which can inform the police of the address and telephone number where the computer is being used. (Contact

lConsider using smoke-generating machines. These are normally connected to the alarm system. Once activated, white smoke quickly fills a room and disorientates an offender. Take out the manufacturing company's insurance in case offenders injure themselves while disoriented. (Contact or

Courtesy of Nottinghamshire Police

By Joe Lepper

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