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NHS warned over data loss potential

4th September 2008

The NHS has been issued a warning that it may become the next victim of a data loss incident.

Doctors are carrying around hundreds of thousands of kilobytes containing identifiable and sensitive patient data on memory sticks and not using any security protection, the Health Service Journal (HSJ) reports.

According to a survey conducted at a teaching hospital in London, 92 of 105 doctors hold memory sticks, with 79 of these containing confidential patient data but only five being password protected.

Information on memory sticks includes patient names and dates of birth, together with medical information like diagnoses, treatment details and x-ray results.

The Department of Health (DoH) has asked the HSJ to provide the trust in question with the details of the survey so it can take the necessary steps to better protect patient confidentiality.

A spokesperson for the government said: “The NHS locally has legal responsibility to comply with data protection rules.”

He added that the DoH issues guidance to all NHS branches on data protection and information governance.

In November 2007, a survey from the Guardian revealed that family GP intended to ignore plans from the government to put NHS records on a single national database without explicit consent from patients.

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