All members of the NHS have a duty to not disclose patient’s personal information. This is a part of the foundation of a patient/ doctor relationship. However, whilst most people believe their personal information is protected, data breaches by the NHS have been discovered to be more common than you think!
NHS data breaches can have serious consequences for the victims involved.
Big Brother Watch report
A report was carried out by Big Brother Watch on the NHS. The report found that patient confidentiality is breached on average five times a week, and found that patient information has even been shared on social media websites.
This is extremely concerning.
The report, which was carried out between 2008 and 2011, found that, on average, 268 incidents of data breaches took place a year. There were at least 23 incidents where NHS staff had posted medical information on social media sites; there were at least 57 incidents where medical information was lost or stolen; and there were 129 incidents where NHS staff accessed the private medical information of their colleagues and family members.
The report raises the question – how secure is our personal data when it is meant to be protected by the NHS? If so many health care professionals can so easily access patient’s personal information, perhaps this shows the level of access to patient medical records is excessive.
What happens if confidentiality is breached?
As highlighted in the Big Brother Watch Report, confidentially seems to be being regularly breached by the NHS and that means affected NHS patients may be entitled to make a claim.
People may be able to claim for compensation caused by financial losses as a result of a breach, as well as for distress suffered.
Under the Data Protection Act, individuals may be entitled to compensation if they have been caused distress that has resulted in damages due to having their right to privacy breached.
If a claim for damages can be proven, then claims can be in the region of £15,000 to £20,000 for the distress alone. And this can be the minimal amount as damages can be much higher depending on what information was leaked; to whom; and the level of distress caused.
IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.
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