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Thieves get hold of patient details

19 June 2008

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Thieves have stolen a laptop containing unencrypted information about 11,000 patients from a GP’s home.

Department of Health guidelines say that information kept on laptops should be encrypted, making it unreadable without a special code to unscramble it.

The laptop was among items stolen in a recent burglary at the home of the unnamed doctor, who works at the Castlecroft Medical Practice in Wolverhampton.

The information on the compute included patients’ names, dates of birth, addresses, contact details and confidential medical records.

The practice has written to all of its 11,000 patients to inform them that information about them was on the stolen computer.

Dr Peter Wagstaff, senior partner at the practice, said: “The practice is treating this issue very seriously and we are extremely sorry for any distress or concern that it may cause our patients.

“Though not encrypted, the confidential information on the laptop was protected by a complex password system, which only a person with specialist computer knowledge would be able to crack.”

He said the laptop appeared to have been stolen for its resale value, rather than for any information stored upon it.

Jon Crockett, chief executive of Wolverhampton City Primary Care Trust, said the trust was “extremely concerned” about the theft.

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