Information Commissioner's Office
Hospitals urged to improve data protection standards following incident at NHS Fife
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a reprimand to NHS Fife, after an unauthorised person was able to enter a ward and access the personal information of 14 patients.
In February 2023, an unauthorised person gained access to a ward. Due to a lack of identification checks and formal processes, the non-staff member was handed a document containing personal information of 14 people and assisted with administering care to one patient.
The data was taken off site by the person and has not been recovered. While the hospital had CCTV installed, the wall socket with the CCTV had been accidentally turned off by a member of staff prior to the incident. The police have not been able to identify the person or recover the lost data, hindered by the lack of CCTV footage.
The ICO’s investigation concluded that NHS Fife did not have appropriate security measures for personal information, as well as low staff training rates. Following this incident, NHS Fife introduced new measures such as a system for documents containing patient data to be signed in and out, as well as updated identification processes.
Natasha Longson, ICO Head of Investigations yesterday said:
"Patient data is highly sensitive information that must be handled with the appropriate security. When accessing healthcare and other vital services, people need to trust that their data is secure and only available to authorised individuals.
“Every healthcare organisation should look at this case as a lesson learned and consider their own policies when it comes to security checks and authorised access. We are pleased to see that NHS Fife has introduced new measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.”
The ICO recommended that NHS Fife could improve its data protection compliance by:
- Improving the overall training rate, in line with current legislation. For example, refresher data protection training should be provided to all staff more frequently and underpinned by written guidance on security for employees The ICO has helpful resources on staff training.
- Developing guidance or a policy in relation to formal ID verification.
- Reviewing all policies available from their intranet, ensuring that they are all up-to-date and accurate, with archived versions clearly marked.
- Revisiting the data breach reporting process and ensure relevant personal data breaches are reported within 72 hours.
The ICO has asked NHS Fife to provide an update of actions taken within six months of the reprimand being issued.
In light of this incident, all organisations should consider whether they have appropriate identification processes and training in place.
Notes to Editors
- The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the UK’s independent regulator for data protection and information rights law, upholding information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
- The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA2018), the United Kingdom General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR), the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR), Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR) and a further five acts and regulations.
- The ICO can take action to address and change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use, and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit.
- To report a concern to the ICO telephone call our helpline on 0303 123 1113, or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.
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