Thursday, May 28, 2009

NHS negligence: Thousands of medical records lost

Tens of thousands of medical records have been lost by the NHS (National Health Services) due to a series of data security leaks. The health organization has been asked by the Information Commissioner now to tighten their data security. This year, 140 security breaches took place in NHS between January and April, which exceed the total number of cases put together from the local authorities and the central government.

14 NHS institutes have been observed to have broken the data regulations. According to Mick Gorrill, assistant information commissioner, NHS has offended laws by losing such confidential information. In one instance, the database of 10,000 people was downloaded onto an insecure laptop and the laptop was said to have been stolen from the home of the NHS employee.

In another such case of negligence, a memory stick, which was carrying medical histories of ex-inmates of Preston prison and other 6,360 prison patients, was lost earlier. The password for obtaining the data was written on the device itself.

Gorill said that it is a matter of great concern that the data has been lost. It would cause obvious distress to the patients since the data is a confidential piece of information. Plus, he added, many insurance companies sometimes hire private detectives to find out vital information about the policy holder’s medical history etc. He said that it is well understood what may happen if the data falls into the wrong hands.

According to Gorill, since the loss of data is inexcusable, the body will be fined accordingly for such incidences.

To examine how the medical data is stored in various hospitals in Britain, Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, plans to send a crack team of inspectors. Thomas has written a letter to a senior civil servant in the Department of Health for taking necessary steps for improvements. A spokesperson of the department said that they will soon reply to Thomas’s letter.


Swine flu family slams treatment at an Australian government hospital

A GOLD Coast family struck down by swine flu has slammed Queensland Health's handling of their plight as "Third World". Newlyweds Nik and Kiralea Campbell, who contracted the disease on the P&O cruise ship Pacific Dawn during their wedding voyage, said the Gold Coast Hospital was "totally unprepared" for the 13 suspected swine flu patients who arrived on Monday night. "Dogs would have received better treatment," Mrs Campbell said last night from her Oxenford home where she and her family were under quarantine.

She hit out as it was revealed the number of swine flu cases in Australia doubled to 50 in just 24 hours.

The Campbells fell ill on the cruise the day after they were married in Vanuatu last week. They flew home to the Gold Coast on Monday after the Pacific Dawn docked in Sydney and were later taken by ambulance to hospital as the Pacific Dawn swine flu crisis deepened. Mr and Mrs Campbell, their sons Trae, 2, Jordan,15, and Josh, 16, and Mr Campbell's mother Gloria, 67, were put into a small room at the hospital with one bed and a chair.

"They were totally unprepared for us – we were given no blankets, no food or medication," Mrs Campbell said. "Our three sons had to lay on the floor. It was terrible, especially the way we were feeling. Queensland Health should have been far better prepared."

Mrs Campbell said they were "filthy" that P&O had allowed them and other passengers to leave the cruise ship. "We were tested for swine flu on board but no one stopped us leaving," she said. Mr Campbell feared his sons and mother also had swine flu but had to wait until today for results. His Gold Coast friend Stephen Till and three members of his family, had also tested positive for swine flu after also going on the cruise.

Queensland Health yesterday said the five who had tested positive for swine flu at Gold Coast Hospital were all passengers on Virgin flight DJ531 from Sydney to Coolangatta on Monday and advised other passengers on that flight to call 13Health (13 432584) for advice.


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