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Auctioneer stops data of 7,000 patients in west Norfolk being sold to highest bidder after blunder at Queen Elizabeth Hospital

12:41 26 February 2016

QEH chief executive Dorothy Hosein. Picture: Ian Burt

QEH chief executive Dorothy Hosein. Picture: Ian Burt

Only the vigilance of an eagle-eyed auctioneer stopped information relating to 7,000 patients in west Norfolk being sold to the highest bidder, we can reveal today.

A health chief at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King’s Lynn, has announced a full internal investigation is underway after a piece of medical equipment containing personal data slipped through the first stage of their disposal process.

The potential for the information to be leaked was however prevented by an auctioneer, at a family business which specialises in the sale of medical equipment, who flagged up the error.

Dorothy Hosein, chief executive at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital said: “We are currently holding a full internal investigation to ensure lessons are learnt and our internal processes are strengthened.”

A report conducted by a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) official about patient safety, referred to yesterday in a meeting of the West Norfolk CCG Governing Body, read there had been a “breach of patient confidentiality” when a hard drive was submitted for auction.

Mrs Hosein has said no breach of patient confidentiality had been made and, despite the wording of the report, she has been backed by the West Norfolk CCG.

A spokesman for the health care commissioning group said: “The CCG was satisfied the Queen Elizabeth Hospital has dealt with this issue appropriately and notes no patient data was released.”

The Clinical Quality and Patient Safety report, which logged the matter as a “serious incident” in December 2015, read the equipment - which contained information on eye tests - was recorded as having been inspected, but was subsequently identified by the auctioneer to contain Patient Identifiable Data (PID).

It is believed the hospital reported the incident to the Information Commissioner’s Office, an independent authority which upholds information rights, as a matter of course but it responded that no further action was to be taken.

Mrs Hosein said: “As is routine, a sturdy process is in place to dispose of unwanted and unusable equipment, which involves a number of key stages.”

She said their method was to wipe items clean but, in this case, this stage did not occur internally but was carried out by a NHS approved disposal organisation, who ensured all patient information was secure.

This organisation was later named as the Hilditch Group Ltd, an international company based in Wiltshire who were not available for comment yesterday.

6 comments

  • No breach of patient confidentiality......... Yes there was - It was only because of the caring and vigilant auctioneer stopped it going further, but there was a breach! So own up to it, "lessons learned" is the phrase now used meaning "the rules were broken, but we can't be bothered to do anything about it, 'cos they are our mates" . Absolutely not acceptable.

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    Considered View

    Friday, February 26, 2016

  • Now then George and David. Have you considered the fact that the NHS was forced to "outsource" this work by central government?

    Report this comment

    arfur

    Friday, February 26, 2016

  • Spot on George. An example of how the business side of the NHS not doing their best. What is the logic of expecting a 3rd party to take care of sensitive information ?. If the admin sat down and thought about the proper process they would have realised that data should be cleaned in house by their own IT team. Or are they all 3rd party as well ?.

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    David D

    Friday, February 26, 2016

  • Arfur Howd you on a cotton pickin minute! As I read it this drive should have been cleaned whilst still in the control of the Queen Elizabeth, and it is down to the vigilance of someone working for a private company that this data did not pass into the public realm.

    Report this comment

    George Ezekial

    Friday, February 26, 2016

  • Surely any hard drive from any business should be trashed and not submitted to auction for the sake of a few roubles? Who are these idiots? Oh hang on, the story tells us. Disgraceful.

    Report this comment

    el dingo

    Friday, February 26, 2016

  • Yet another private company fails in its duties and endangers patients' confidentiality. Whilst they are 'unavailable for comment' they are no doubt still collecting asizeable payment for their incompetence.

    Report this comment

    arfur

    Friday, February 26, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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