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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)

  • Sound like someone needs to do cpd on information governance!

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  • Cant wait for the next cabinet reshuffle - Me thinks he might have given his lovely little NHS badge to someone else.

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  • Who would want to health brief? We are stuck with him, the health and social care act of 2012 was never going to improve NHS services and therefore Cameron gave the job to his least favourite mate! He can blame JH for not delivering and teh next leader sack him just before the next election. Job done! Theresa May, or Vile Hog Came(anagram) or whomever is leader will claim a new era for the NHS. All will be well (in Canada Oz NZ or Tesco!)

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  • Be Fair ! Anyone can make a honest mistake. Unless you're a doctor then you're up before the GMC with a career in tatters .

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  • If I make an "entirely unintentional mistake" I can get struck off. Intention is not the issue it's incompetence.
    How on earth do we get rid of this man?

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  • The GMC would be all over you for doing this. There would be the thud of the brown envelope through the post box on a Friday and the next 6-12 months would be spent feeling fear, anger, despair.
    What happens to JH? Sod all

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  • JC is quite simply a mistake whether unintentional or not.
    H stands for hypocrisy ... will he please stop with the nhs badge ..from a man who wrote a book against the nhs and is now doing all he can to wreck it .
    Stop wearing that badge.
    It is unconsciable.

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  • Dr David Barrett

    It will set a precedent as the ICO will be judged by how it responds to this.

    In future for anyone else a similar breach or disproportionate sanction/fine can be defended or mitigated using the ICO's example made of Jeremy Hunt.

    Entirely unintentional mistakes have consequences for doctors livelihoods and for patient safety.

    Defunding the NHS as it stands is an intentional choice of Mr Hunt. Spreading stretched routine services thinly over 7 days instead of 5 will be a disaster for patient safety.

    The health professionals in that photo should not worry.
    If I got my public relations guru to photograph my lunch in front of my surgery list screen and put it on Facebook, I can't blame the "lunch".

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  • Watch this one get swept under the carpet and conveniently forgotten! It would embarrass the government too much to have JH pursued by the ICO for breach of confidentiality - but any GP who shows that they are a human being and makes an unintentional error can expect to be persecuted and pursued to the end of time! No wonder information about patients is no longer totally confidential - when even the Health Secretary and his minions don't understand the basics!

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  • Vinci Ho

    You see
    Perhaps this might not be so 'alarming' if the reputation of the SOS is not so already condemned , if the relationship between the government and the profession is not so all time low.
    Again, whose fault is that?

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