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Hunt's tweeting of patient names under consideration by information commissioner

The Information Commissioner’s Office has told Pulse that it is considering whether any further action is needed after health secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted a picture that included the names of patients in a hospital.

Mr Hunt’s twitter account last weekend posted a response to doctors’ #ImInWorkJeremy campaign that not only pictured the health secretary with brain surgeons at the University College London Hospital, but also a whiteboard with names of patients.

The Department of Health said that it had ‘looked carefully at this matter’ and it was an ‘entirely unintentional mistake’.

However, when contacted by Pulse, the Information Commissioner’s Office said it was still considering the matter.

Its statement read: ‘We are aware of this incident and will be considering whether any further action is required.’

This came after Dr Rose Townsend raised concerns with the Department of Health.

Yesterday, she tweeted a screengrab of the DH email response, which said: ‘The Department has looked carefully at this matter and what took place was an entirely unintentional mistake. The [health secretary’s] sole intention was to celebrate some excellent clinical work he was grateful to have been able to see first-hand at University College London Hospital. As soon as the Department was alerted to the mistake, the image was removed and replaced.’

But Dr Townsend seemingly did not agree with the response, captioning it by noting wryly that ‘unintentional’ breaches of confidentiality were apparently ‘totally OK with the DH’.

Meanwhile, the Government has issued a response to the petition to unseat health secretary Jeremy Hunt but has yet to say whether it will set a date for parliamentary debate.

Official petitions to Parliament launched via the site prompt a Government response at 10,000 signatures, while reaching 100,000 backers means Parliament must consider the topic for debate.

The petition, which is calling for a vote of no confidence in Mr Hunt after he said he will impose new terms that would mean lower pay for hospital consultants working weekends, topped that mark in just 24 hours and has since received over 185,000 signatures.

However, rather than telling doctors that it would consider Mr Hunt’s resignation, the Government’s response made a pledge to continue to pursue plans to remove consultants’ right to opt out of weekend working no matter what.

The Government said: ‘The average earnings for a hospital consultant are already in the top 2% in the country at £118,000, and these inflated payments can make it difficult for hospitals to provide the weekend cover they know patients need.

‘By the end of the Parliament, the Government hopes that the majority of consultants, in line with existing practice for nurses, midwives and junior doctors, will be on reformed contracts, working across seven days, to deliver a better service to patients.’

The Government concluded by saying it feels it is ‘under an obligation to the public’ to push through the changes ‘to make NHS care at the weekend as safe as during the week through the delivery of seven day services this Parliament… and that is what it will continue to do.’

Readers' comments (19)

  • Thanks for the precedence ICO and JH !!
    Let the GMC now attempt 'trying' a mortal Doctor for similar 'unintentional slips'
    Great thing to happen as only confirms that some are more 'equal' than others in this farce which we call Cameron's democracy

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  • Agree last
    Cameron's democracy=a corrupt corporate statist kleptocracy with no majority or mandate for secretively privatising the nhs behind a smokescreen of lies.
    Incredible but arguably true.
    They must not get away with this .

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  • I think it is unintentional but most missed diagnosis are unintentional but the consequences are different. So this would be a legal precedent which any doctor of having accidentally done the same.

    When the many stop fearing the few........

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  • Vinci Ho

    "You are the few, we are the many. And when the many stop fearing the few..." -The High Sparrow. GOT S05E07

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  • 'Unintentional mistakes' are one thing, but in the spirit of transparency, isn't JH now expected to apologise personally to those patients affected? Thought saying sorry was a key bit of DH/GMC/NHSE policy?

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  • We made an unintentional mistake regarding a data breach. We got a noticed despite not harm done. Why should this man be any different? some are obviously more equal than others.

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  • "some are obviously more equal than others".

    Well he and the other MPS did just have a 10% pay rise (back dated to May!) so I think JC must be at least 10% more equal than us.

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  • if an exhausted junior dr drops a ward list in the hospital they are hung out to dry. Why not JH with a team of pr advisers? Maybe next time have a quick chat with the Caldicott guardian before posting selfies!

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  • Heaven help any doctor that makes an unintentional mistake ... one rule for them, another for us!

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