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Star comment: NHS data breaches worrying

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

Our NHS is built on trust.

At all times, patients must have absolute confidence decisions medical staff make are in their best interests.

Furthermore, they must have a sure-fire belief that information they provide, or information that medical staff glean, will remain in absolute confidence. There must never be the doubt or suspicion their details will be provided to third parties, be that willfully or inadvertently.

It is disturbing, therefore, details about a number of patients have found their way into the wrong hands.

And while that information has been quickly retrieved, it will have alarmed all concerned privacy has been breached. The NHS is a colossal organisation and relies more than anything upon human beings.

As we know, they are prone to mistakes and from time to time errors are made when there is no intention to cause harm. Even so, there is a sense that the NHS got away with it lightly when they sent documents to the wrong person. Private information that might have fallen into the wrong hands was quickly returned.

In the Data Protection era, such errors should not occur.

Systems should be sufficiently robust to ensure documents always reach the correct recipient.

That did not happen on this occasion.

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And while the sheer volume of documents processed by the NHS means these were a tiny percentage of their throughput, it is still unacceptable.

The stress patients feel about their documents reaching the wrong recipient will be vast.

And we should hope the appropriate line manager has made an unequivocal apology for any distress or delay patients might have experienced.

And while it would be insensitive to speculate on what the documents might have contained, the nature of the NHS means the material would almost certainly have been of a sensitive nature.

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A review of how the error was made, and whether there was a human fault or systemic error, is essential.

Those responsible must get to the bottom of what happened and why.

And an apology and transparent investigation will start to rebuild the trust that has been so badly breached.

In the meantime, the nine affected must be given further assurance that it will not happen again.

The NHS faces hard times caused by a range of pressures. Self-inflicted injuries do it no good at all.

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