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'Raise penalties for data breaches'

Connecting for Health is to

lobby the Government for an increase in the penalties for NHS staff who breach data protection rules.

Richard Granger, director general of the IT programme, told the Public Accounts Committee that the current £5,000 maximum penalty was not enough.

He said the creation of shared care records containing large amounts of sensitive data meant more stringent deterrents were needed to stop people abusing it.

Connecting for Health has already started an investigation into misuse of smart cards used to access its systems.

The problems, which include practice staff lending cards to colleagues and leaving themselves logged in, have prom-

pted GPs to raise serious concerns about patient confidentiality.

Dr Gillian Braunold, national clinical GP lead for the programme, said it was better to increase penalties before an abuse occurred, rather than get complaints later if patients did not consider a fine reflected the scale of the abuse.

She said: 'It was not such a big deal having things on computers before so the fines were appropriate.'

She added: 'They are not in line with the risks now and people want much tougher penalties.'

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