Is this merely a measure of incompetence or is it indicative of something organised going on? A “problem-reaction-solution” set up? Could it be that the loss of all the records will be used to justify microchipping the population?
Government-wide security review unearths more losses of peoples’ records.
By DANIEL MARTIN – Last updated at 08:19am on 24th December 2007
The confidential records of hundreds of thousands of NHS patients and staff have gone missing in the latest data loss scandal to hit the Government.
Nine trusts admitted they have lost computer discs and memory sticks containing sensitive information during a Government-wide security review.
It comes only weeks after a series of high-profile data security incidents, including the loss of details of 25 million child benefit claimants.
The Department of Health said there was no proof that any of the data had fallen into the wrong hands.
But campaigners said the security breaches mean the Government should scrap plans for a centralised computer network containing all NHS records.
Tory health spokesman Steve O’Brien said: ‘The Government is obsessed with the idea of database-building but they are not prepared to put in the essential security.
“I hold the Government responsible for this. Having large central databases is a problem because there is the risk of a major security breach.”
He added: “People are going to be very worried about this and they are right to be. It’s another example of the incompetence of this Government.”
Joyce Robins from Patient Care described the data loss as a “scandal” and “the tip of the iceberg”.
She told the BBC: “Every week we hear of a new one.
“Health records can have anything from your ex-directory phone number to your HIV status.
“Given the carelessness and lack of accountability in the NHS, this could be the end of patient confidentiality. It may be only a matter of time before records fall into the wrong hands.”
Nine trusts in all have admitted to breaches of data security – and only one has recovered the records it lost.
At Norfolk and Norwich university hospitals trust, a member of staff is being disciplined after summary sheets from wards were found in a household wheelie bin.
The papers contained names, numbers and information about patients’ conditions.
City and Hackney primary care trust is believed to have lost the names and addresses of 160,000 child patients after a disc failed to arrive at St Leonard’s Hospital in East London.
Sutton and Merton PCT in London has also admitted losing data, as have Gloucester Partnership Trust, Bolton Royal Hospital, Mid-Essex PCT and Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust.
The East and North Hertfordshire trust reported a loss – but has since found the missing data. A spokesman for the Department of Health said he did not have details on how many people were affected by the breaches because they were being dealt with locally.
“Since the recent heightened concern about data protection, a small number of trusts – nine – have reported breaches of their own security rules,” he said.
“There are strict guidelines and procedures for dealing with such breaches. Trusts have an obligation to inform patients where appropriate.
“Investigations are underway in all the trusts involved and action will be taken against anyone who has failed to fulfil their legal responsibilities.”
But Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s committee of GPs, said the Government was not serious enough about data security.
“Patients need to be absolutely confident that the information that is held securely cannot be lost in some haphazard way as appears to be the case,” he told the BBC.
He said the development was particularly worrying given the Government’s plans for a centralised NHS computer network, called Connecting for Health.
LibDem health spokesman Norman Lamb added: “The whole culture of data management in the public sector has to change. Organisations and staff must understand that this sort of important data must be protected at all costs.”
The chief executive of the NHS, David Nicholson, recently wrote to trust chief executives reminding them of the importance of keeping data secure.
Yesterday, the Post Office was forced too apologise to scores of pensioners after details of their savings acccounts were sent to the wrong customers.
The mix-up happened during the printing of 5,500 letters last month.
They concerned State pensions which are paid into the accounts and an internal memo at the Department for Works and Pensions warned that thousands of people had been affected.
But a Post Office spokesman said last night: “An error which occurred during a print run of 5,500 Post Office card account statements resulted in a very small proportion – we believe around 120 – receiving some incorrect information. We have apologised to them.”
Police are still searching for two computer discs containing the names, addresses, dates of birth and bank account details of every child benefit claimant in the country.
They were lost in the post by Revenue and Customs in November this year.
It is one of at least seven data security breaches at the department over the last few months.
These also included the loss of information contained in a stolen laptop, and one instance where confidential waste fell off the back of a lorry.
It also emerged last week that information on 6,500 customers of pension provider Countrywide Assured had gone astray.
The details of three million learner drivers have also been lost, after being sent to the U.S.
A spokesman for campaign group NO2ID said: “We are now starting to see the consequences of the Government obsession with information “sharing” and centralised IT in the NHS.
“If you care about your privacy then keep your medical records between you and your doctor.”
Comment from Godfather77 on prisonplanet.com Forum:
“I have no doubt that the Labour government will cynically attempt to use these incidents as an excuse to further centralise records and push forward with agendas such as a DNA central database and the compulsory ID card system.
The one constant in the midst of all the chaos, spin and lies is the ‘problem-reaction -solution’ approach which the government uses to try and steer public oppinion. They create a problem like for example mass uncontrolled immigration, await the public backlash and then offer the solution of a compulsory ID card system and centralised database. And when public backlash gets unbearable for the government they bring out their new weapon called the ‘government review’ which allows MP’s and senior civil servants to say ‘no comment’ until it is concluded. Once the media frenzy has died down and the public have forgotten the findings are then published on the quiet.
At present a microchipped population is still in the pipeline as the government knows full well people will not accept being treated as cattle. This doesn’t mean that we are not heading in that direction as its’ already been found that microchips have been covertly implanted in clothes and items we buy. What I think will happen over time is a concerted effort by big business with the support of government towards an intergrated ID-Passport-Bank-Social Security card. Once this is in place then movement towards microchipping the population will intensify.
Below is another example of data loss reported in the news today:
Police data details found at dump
Wednesday, 26 December 2007, 14:52 GMT
A senior police officer has apologised after confidential details of staff were found on a dump in Devon.
The details, on a floppy disk, included names, addresses, telephone numbers and ranks of employees of Devon and Cornwall Police.
The disk was in an obsolete computer that had been used by the force and had been sent for recycling.
Ass Ch Con Bob Pennington apologised to staff and said the matter was being investigated.
“We take our responsibilities for protecting all information seriously and are extremely concerned as to how this single disk was not removed before the machine was taken out of use,” he said.
“Recycling old computers was a conscious decision taken by the force as part of an overall cost cutting exercise and hard drives are always wiped clean but it appears that on this occasion the floppy disk has been overlooked.”
Information stored on the disk also included firearms qualifications. It was found by a man looking for spare computer parts at a recycling centre in Exeter, who alerted a national newspaper.
It follows the loss of details for millions of hospital patients, learner drivers and child benefit claimants.