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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.’