Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust has been served with a Civil Monetary Penalty of nearly 400,000 euros following a serious breach of the UK Data Protection Act. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said today that it was the highest issued by the ICO since it was granted the power to issue CMPs in April 2010.
It follows the discovery of highly sensitive personal data belonging to tens of thousands of patients and staff, including some relating to HIV and Genito Urinary Medicine patients, on hard drives sold on an Internet auction site in October and November 2010. The data included details of patients’ medical conditions and treatment, disability living allowance forms and children’s reports. It also included documents containing staff details including National Insurance numbers, home addresses, ward and hospital IDs, and information referring to criminal convictions and suspected offences.
The data breach occurred when an individual engaged by the Trust’s IT service provider, Sussex Health Informatics Service (HIS), was tasked to destroy approximately 1000 hard drives held in a room accessed by key code at Brighton General Hospital in September and October 2010. A data recovery company bought four hard drives from a seller on an Internet auction site in December 2010, who had purchased them from the individual.
Initially the hospital assured the watchdog that only four hard drives were affected. An examination of the drives established that they contained data which belonged to the Trust.
The Trust has been unable to explain how the individual removed at least 252 of the approximate 1000 hard drives they were supposed to destroy.