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Thousands of patient records lost or stolen

By Steve Nowottny

Thousands of patients have had their confidential records lost or stolen in the past year in a catalogue of data breaches, according to a new report by NHS London.

The SHA said last week that there had been 76 ‘serious untoward incidents' between April 2008 and April 2009 resulting in the loss of data - involving more than 37,000 patients' details misplaced, stolen or ‘inappropriately released'.

It comes as the Information Commissioner's Office revealed it had taken action over data breaches against 14 NHS trusts in the past six months.

The incidents reported by NHS London occurred across PCTs, acute trusts and GP practices, and included the theft of various computers containing patient information, patient records being lost in the post and the loss of an unencrypted memory stick containing patient names.

A spokesman for NHS London credited the increased number of incidents reported last year to improved reporting procedures, and said security measures had been tightened, including a requirement for all trusts to encrypt laptops and USB sticks.

It also emerged last week that the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas has written to the Department of Health demanding improvements in the way NHS trusts safeguard patient data, in the wake of dozens of security breaches.

In an interview with the Independent, assistant information commissioner Mick Gorrill said that ‘inexcusable' data losses within the NHS had become a cause of ‘great concern'.

A Pulse investigation last September revealed that four out of five NHS trusts have lost patient data or suffered a data security breach since the beginning of 2007.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said it would be replying to the Information Commissioner's letter in due course, but that local NHS trusts were responsible for complying with data protection rules.

Patient records are being stolen or lost Patient records are being stolen or lost

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