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Two PCTs found in breach of Data Protection Act

16 November 2009

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Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT and Gloucestershire PCT have taken remedial action after the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found them in breach of the Data Protection Act.

Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT informed the ICO of the theft of two desktop computers containing sensitive personal data relating to more than 1,000 occupational therapy patients and staff members.

The data included information about people’s physical or mental health and, in some cases, details about their trade union membership. The personal information was held on the computers rather than on a network server and was not password protected.

The premises did not have an intruder alarm system, the internal office doors did not have security locks and the computers were not protected with any form of encryption software.

Gloucestershire PCT informed the ICO of the theft of six desktop computers holding personal data relating to 2,270 patients. The computers were used by medical secretaries for preparing letters and notes relating to diagnosis and referral of patients.

Although the computers were password protected and were held in a locked office, patient data should have been held on a local server, rather than on the hard drives of the stolen computers, says the ICO.

Formal Undertakings have now been signed by both Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT and Gloucestershire PCT, committing them to take a number of steps to ensure that personal data is processed in compliance with the Data Protection Act.

The PCTs will ensure adequate security measures are in place to prevent unauthorised access to personal data, that any personal data required to be held on a portable device is suitably encrypted and staff are aware of the policies for the storage and use of personal data.

Mick Gorrill, Assistant Information Commissioner at the ICO, said: “Both of these cases have put thousands of patients’ sensitive personal information at risk. Personal information is valuable and keeping it safe and secure should be at the heart of good corporate governance.”

Failure to meet the terms of the Undertakings is likely to lead to enforcement action by the ICO.