NHS trust in Northamptonshire suffered fourth-highest number of data breaches in the country

Berrywood Hospital
Berrywood Hospital

An NHS trust for patients with mental health problems in Northamptonshire has admitted to losing data or having near misses more than 300 times in the past three years.

Figures from Big Brother Watch show there were 346 incidents from April 2011 to April 2014 at Northamptonshire Healthcare, which has bases in Berrywood Hospital, Duston and Campbell House in the town centre.

It places the trusts in fourth place in a league table of NHS trusts with the highest numbers of data loss incidents.

Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “The information held in medical records is of huge personal significance and for details to be wrongly disclosed, maliciously accessed or lost is completely unacceptable.

“With an increasing number of people having access to patients’ information, the threat of data breaches will only get worse. Urgent action is therefore needed to ensure that medical records are kept safe and the worst data breaches are taken seriously.

“If the government wants to introduce new schemes, which will make the public’s data more accessible, then this must go hand in hand with greater penalties for those who abuse that access. This should include the threat of jail time and a criminal record.”

Northamptonshire Healthcare said it encourages staff to report incidents “to allow lessons to be learnt and improvements to be made”.

A spokeswoman said: “We take all data breach incidents very seriously and the figures quoted in the Big Brother Watch report includes near misses, receipt of emails in regards to patients not in our care, patient’s on wards using camera phones and internal correspondence.”

The trust’s annual reports for 2011/12 to 2013/2014 show a reduction in the number of serious data breach incidents from 17 to 8, which show a positive improvement.