'A scandal' - Boxes of patient medical records found in abandoned care home
- Credit: Archant
Dozens of confidential patient records, staff notes and sensitive files have been found in a derelict unsecured Norfolk care home, in what has been branded a "serious breach" of data protection.
Pine Heath nursing home in High Kelling, near Holt, closed suddenly in May 2017 after it was placed in special measures after being rated inadequate in a damning report by the CQC.
Since then the home has been left to decay, with abandoned beds, furniture, incontinence products and wheelchairs dotted around the site.
And, although there are security signs which promise 24hr security, dog patrols and more, there is no evidence of any such measures in place.
After receiving concerns from a member of the public, a reporter from the EDP was easily able to walk onto the site and into the building through an open door where they found piles of discarded sensitive material including private patient records.
In one room were boxes of nursing records dating back more than a decade alongside care plans, with photographs of former residents stuck on to the front.
Further into the building were unlocked filing cabinets containing dozens of staff records, including holiday forms, meeting notes, sickness forms and p45s.
Former residents’ wallets and loyalty cards lay on a desk, as did admission notes.
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In the adjacent room were more sensitive records, a complaints book, piles of documents - including one patient’s medical records - and letters to the former care home provider Diamond Care (UK) Ltd from the CQC relating to investigations.
It is also understood the building’s attic area contains further discarded paperwork.
Around the site were Diamond Security signs, which promised 24hr security. When attempts were made to contact the company calls went straight to voicemail.
Since the data breach has come to light Norfolk County Council's data protection team have moved to secure the paperwork.
A spokesperson for NCC said: “Everyone has a right to expect their personal information to be stored securely, and the failure of the former care provider at Pine Heath to do so is a serious breach of both Data Protection legislation and their contractual obligations to Norfolk County Council.
"As Pine Heath is no longer operating and to ensure the personal information was secured, NCC has taken steps to secure the files to ensure that individuals’ personal data is no longer at risk.
"The matter has been reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to allow them to investigate further and we will cooperate with them as required to resolve this matter.”
Duncan Baker, MP for North Norfolk, said the situation at Pine Heath amounted to a “serious breach of data records” and would be something he would be following up on.
Mr Baker said: “Obviously, you cannot have a totally unsecured building with confidential patient records that are not properly either disposed of or secured.
“It’s an extremely serious breach of data protection and if these record got into the wrong hands in the community, with North Norfolk being a very small area, that is very sensitive material is allowed to be disseminated around, that would be totally wrong.”
The ICO is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest and has the power to impose fines of up to £17.5m for data breaches.
When asked on Wednesday if it had received any reports of a data breach at Pine Heath it said it had not.
An ICO spokesperson said: “All organisations have the obligation to keep personal data secure, whether in electronic or paper format, particularly when sensitive personal data such as medical information is involved.
“We will assess the information provided by the Eastern Daily Press carefully.”
Lynne Bond, 52, who lives in Holt, said she was shocked by what was lying unsecured within the home.
She said: “It’s shocking how things have been left. Personal paperwork, boxes of it just left in various rooms.
“Who knows what’s in it all. The owner has to be held accountable. There is paperwork all over the place, I would have thought it should be in one place only, under lock and key with security but nope, it’s a hell hole.
“Lots of people I know who went into Kelling and never came out. If my mum or dad were in there and this information was out there not locked and secure, I would be going ballistic."
Mrs Bond said she thought “something had to be done” and those responsible for the data breach should be held accountable.
She said: “It’s a huge scandal, there’s going to be people I know who have died in there.”
Prior to its closure, Pine Heath was run by a company called Diamond Care (UK) Ltd. Attempts have been made to contact the directors of the company.
The history of Pine Heath
Pine Heath, in High Kelling, was a nursing home run by Diamond Care (UK) Ltd providing care for up to 42 people aged over 65, some of whom had dementia.
Care Quality Commission reports dating back several years show the home was found to be adequate in 2009.
In July 2011, CQC inspectors found Pine Heath was not meeting one or two essential standards and improvements were needed.
In November 2012 inspectors took a number of enforcement actions against the home and told the owners it needed to take action in a number of areas.
Further CQC visits were made in the intervening years and the home was told to take a number of actions to improve care after breaches of the Health and Social Care Act were discovered.
In February 2016, CQC inspectors visited Pine Heath and rated it as inadequate and the home was placed in special measures.
In March 2017, inspectors visited Pine Heath for one last time and observed an array of serious problems, including considerable maintenance issues, cleanliness and infection control issues and "considerable poor practice".
The home closed in May 2017. Following its closure, the Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board carried out a report following the death of a woman who was understood to have been a resident at Pine Heath.
What our reporter found at the abandoned home
When the EDP received a tip-off that there were dozens of sensitive records lying unsecured at Pine Heath, a reporter visited the site to find a gate to the property was open. Once on site, there was no evidence of security measures.
A pair of double doors into the main building facing the home's garden was wide open and our reporter was easily able to walk in.
The entrance led to a bedroom with an abandoned bed in, then onto a corridor with further bedrooms, most of which had abandoned furniture, care equipment or piles of rotting clothes in.
Windows to the building were broken, there was evidence wildlife and other people had been inside and graffiti in several rooms.
Another open door from the gardens led to a conservatory which contained boxes of care plans and other medical records some of which were lying loose on the floor.
Down the corridor was an office that contained shelves of files, record books and unlocked filing cabinets.
- Were you or a member of your family resident at Pine Heath nursing home? Let us know if you have been affected by this story by emailing email@example.com or 07841 492140.