back to article Trust fined £225k for leaving patient files in abandoned hospital

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust has been fined £225,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office for leaving patient and staff files in an abandoned hospital. The Belfast Trust became the latest NHS body to feel the wrath of the ICO after it left 100,000 patient records and 15,000 staff records in boxes, cabinets, on the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    25k headline, 225k story.

    sort it out!

    (it's 225k, in case you change the wrong one)

  2. irish donkey

    things ai't gonna change until

    some budget holder does some serious jail time.

    Until then its just somebody else's money

    1. Rob

      Re: things ai't gonna change until

      Agree, need a big fine for the organisation and the head to face some short jail time, that might make them sit up and take some responsibility for their organisations actions (or in actions in most cases).

      We can but dream I suppose....

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: things ai't gonna change until

        Nah, fining the organisation is just stupid. All that does is move money from one Gummint pocket to another.

        Instead you fine the people responsible. Start with the numpty whose act of commission or omission actually caused the leak and include the entire managerial chain from his boss to the CEO on the grounds that all failed to adequately supervise their immediate staff member. Hit them all with a fine of the same %age of salary so all get the message with equal emphasis. For fairness, also make it a rule that if anybody gets fired over the data loss, they all do.

  3. andy gibson

    Nothing New

    A few years ago I used to be into Urbex. I found records left in four hospitals I visited - St Georges at Stafford, Denbigh, Blackburn Royal and Withington, Manchester. The first two were asylums and featured details on sectioned patients, the latter two were normal hospitals.

    None of the hospitals were secured, it was just simple walk-in access from the road and the records were just left in rooms.

    1. mhoulden

      Re: Nothing New

      I used to occasionally go to Withington hospital as a patient, and another time I was visiting someone at the old Booth Hall childrens' hospital when I got a bit lost and ended up in a mostly abandoned building rather than the ward I was looking for. District hospitals like this are generally massive sites and it's very easy to lose paper files or end up somewhere you weren't expecting even if it's somewhere you know very well. There are also so many layers of bureaucracy that it can be easy to get confused between who's responsible for records while a patient has been admitted and who's responsible for moving archives between sites.

      I agree that fining NHS trusts isn't the right way to deal with this kind of thing. The Caldicott report made a number of recommendations about patient records and confidentiality so that would be a good place to start. It suggests that a fairly senior person should be responsible for maintaining confidentiality. Personally I'd say that person should be the chief executive of the trust. They could delegate actually implementing things, but if something happened like a room full of forgotten records turning up when a building was being prepared for demolition, they would be personally responsible for explaining why they didn't carry out final checks as well as paying any fines out of their salary or facing sanctions for misconduct or negligence. It would certainly make them a bit more careful.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cue two groups of anonymous people.

    Group A saying "we would never do this"

    Group B saying "we do".

    The managers responsible for the biggest foul ups tend to stick in a job for little over two years then move on.

    Year one, they sit and watch what is happening.

    Year two, they come out with their CV padding ideas then move on.

    The idea works OK in year 3 but starts to go wrong somewhere during year 4 and by year 5 is a serious problem but nobody knows where the guilty suit is now as they have moved on yet again.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where does the fine go?

    It's arguably good to fine organisations for being careless with data, but who does this fine go to?

    Surely it is istill better spent paying for vital hospital services like, equipment, doctors and, to a considerably non-existent extent, chaplains?

    1. Christine Hedley

      Re: Where does the fine go?

      Where does the fine get paid from, for that matter? If it comes out of the management budget, fair enough, but you know it'll be patient services that end up having to go without.

  6. the-it-slayer

    Surely...'s the last one who turns off the lights who's responsible for what's inside? Guess not.

  7. jaycee331

    ooooh shock

    The ICO lands another hefty fine on a public service organisation, presumably taking money away from front line service and back to the treasury.

    Yet all the while, if a private company whom commits a data offense, the ICO's stance is softly softly, work with them to help them follow the guidlines and a token pocket change fine if we're lucky.

    It's about time the NHS learned to deploy the "actions of a single rogue employee" defence which get's you completely off the hook, or at least it does for a private company.

    So I implore all El Reg readers here, follow the pattern of how the ICO exercises it's powers against public sector vs private and you'll see this is true.

    All the while the ICO is still considering its position of Google's national WiFi slurp data rape. They failed to investigate, took Google's word for it at every stage, and then only thanks to the US FCC actually knowing how to investigate something, the ICO are left looking more weak and incompetent than words can justify.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ooooh shock

      If you look through all the monetary fines they are for failure to protect individuals data.

      Google has not disclosed any individuals data. What Google did was slurp data that people transmitted unencrypted for anybody to read. Had Google attempted to decrypt or obtain the private keys then it would have broken many laws. There is little difference between what Google did and a stranger reading a note you pin to your front door.

      There are many open source (and 100% legal) tools you can install on your laptap and then drive around and slurp exactly the same type of data Google did.

  8. Don Jefe


    Asbestos is perfectly harmless as long as you don't go breaking it up. Asbestos is not a valid excuse to not investigate something or to pay mega-bucks for a hazmat team to investigate. Silliness.

  9. ukgnome

    Maybe the ICO could pool the fines levied and help pay for the digitisation of patient records.

  10. David 45


    Fine the people directly responsible, not the strapped NHS. That just comes out of (our) public money and is just shuttled from one government section to another. Barmy.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Lunacy

      I, the government, have no choice but to fine myself a large amount of money for my stupidity - frankly it's the only language I understand.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What about a world where "the data" didn't exist in the first place?

    Where Doctors don't keep a giant freaking library, they operate out of a small place, where people come in don't need an ID, or money. The only real need for a prescription being so people don't overdose from not being informed. The doctors get paid by people who CAN pay, by local business where it's voluntarily in the business's interest to keep people healthy, so they come back, do more business, or voluntarily in a city's interest to keep the public healthy so the voluntarily business's stay put. Obviously the doctor can't give drugs out free forever so it would be on the one needing it first, then down the line, logical places, not destroying lives being fair. You can even BUY insurance in this world, if you can trust someone to sell it to you. A lot of other things have to be fixed for this world.


    How about a world where there are men from government agencies carrying automatic weapons and heavy military equip, showing up at the local CVS pharmacy, or hospital pharmacy, carrying out boxes of a smashed up building, and handcuffed doctors, pharmacists, patients and all manner of mayhem when you are back for a re-fill, or zone law exploits to raid medical cannabis dispensary co-op's .

  12. LonDan

    I have seen this personally on more than one occasion.

    There are also patient records in St Clements Hospital in Mile End, London.

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