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Data protection probe at Fakenham clinic after hundreds of patient records breached

PUBLISHED: 13:16 18 November 2017 | UPDATED: 13:16 18 November 2017

A Fakenham medical practice has apologised to patients after 230 people had their records inappropriately accessed. Photo: Sonya Duncan

A Fakenham medical practice has apologised to patients after 230 people had their records inappropriately accessed. Photo: Sonya Duncan

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A Fakenham medical centre is under investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after 230 patients were affected by a member of staff inappropriately accessing their medical records.

Fakenham Medical Centre. Picture: Submitted Fakenham Medical Centre. Picture: Submitted

The Fakenham Medical Practice, on Trinity Road, has sent a letter of apology to the patients involved.

The EDP understands that the staff member in question was suspended while an investigation was carried out.

A disciplinary hearing for the staff member was also arranged, and they have since resigned.

The staff member wrote a statement in the letter to say there had been no malicious intent in their actions, and the information accessed had not been shared.

A patient at the medical centre said three people in her family had received the letter of apology. One other family member is also a patient at the clinic, but did not receive a letter.

The woman, who has been a patient at the clinic for 35 years, described the news as horrifying.

John Fraser, chief executive at the practice, said: “We informed the ICO and they are deciding what action they are going to take.

“We take this matter very seriously. We are very concerned that this has happened.

“All our employees sign to say they will only access information in the course of their work.”

A spokesman for the ICO, a data protection watchdog, said: “We are aware of an incident involving Fakenham Medical Practice and are making enquiries.”

The ICO, the data protection ombudsman, issued a warning to NHS staff to remind them of the consequences of inappropriately accessing medical records.

They stated: “doing so without a valid reason or the knowledge of your employer is a criminal offence and could lead to prosecution by the Information Commissioner’s Office and a day in court.

“So far this year, we have secured eight convictions against NHS employees who were caught prying into the medical records of patients, friends, colleagues or other people they knew without a valid or legal reason.”

Prosecutions by the ICO have included a former midwifery assistant from Essex, and a former administrator from Ipswich.

Fakenham Medical Practice has 14,800 patients on its books. The 230 patients affected represent 2pc of the practice’s total.

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