Friday, July 01, 2011

Hospitals leaking patient data to 'no win no fee' firms, claims MEP

Confidential patient data is being leaked from hospitals to 'no win no fee' accident claims firms, an MEP claimed on Tuesday night. Paul Nuttall, the UK Independence Party MP for the North West, has called for an inquiry into the alleged practice, saying if true it was "an outrage".

He made the claim after being contacted by members of the public upset at being "harassed" by such firms after receiving treatment at hospitals in Liverpool and The Wirral. Both hospital trusts have denied the claims.

Mr Nuttall said: "I have been approached by constituents who are angry that have been bombarded with text messages to their mobile phones after hospital treatment. "The only way the claims firms can have got the information that they had been a patient and also got their mobile phone numbers is from the hospital itself," he said.

"I don't know if that is being done with the connivance of the hospital trusts concerned - Wirral and the Royal Liverpool Hospital - or whether some staff are doing this off their own bat.

"But I want to know and this must be stopped. I know that hospital trusts everywhere are having to make budget cuts but if they are selling this highly private information to boost their coffers it is an outrage and must contravene the Data Protection Act." He went on: "People are being harassed by these claim firms, who apparently sell or pass on the information to other similar firms when they get no response."

However, both the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust have denied any wrongdoing.

A spokesman for the Royal Liverpool said the allegations were "completely false". She said: "We have not had any incidents where members of staff have sold patient information to claims firms. If we are made aware that any members of staff are not abiding by the Data Protection Act then they will be disciplined appropriately.

"If Mr Nuttall has been approached by patients who have concerns, then we urge those patients to contact us so that we can investigate this further."

A spokesman for Wirral hospitals said it could "categorically deny that is has supplied confidential patient information to accident claim firms".

Data on users - such as phone numbers of those who have been involved in accidents - are sold to claims firms by so-called "claims farmers". The collection and selling of such information is a grey legal area, but the subject must have given their explicit consent for their details to be passed on.


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