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Monday, November 11, 2013


Hospital computer thefts put patients’ details at high risk

THE personal details of thousands of NHS patients are at risk from thieves stealing computers and other IT equipment from Scottish hospitals.

Hospitals in Scotland have recently had a lot of important equipment stolenHospitals in Scotland have recently had a lot of important equipment stolen [ ]
A Sunday Express investigation has found that around 80 items containing potentially sensitive data, including laptops, memory sticks, dictaphones and smartphones, have disappeared since January 2012.
Drugs, medical equipment, prescription pads and cars have also disappeared from hospitals, with more bizarre thefts including a garden fork, dishwasher and Victorian baking oven.
Last week, we told how more than 11,000 patients had gone missing from hospitals in the past five years, including some who were receiving intensive care treatment.
Following the latest revelations, campaigners and politicians yesterday called for health boards to enhance security.
Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association, even suggested the introduction airport-style scanners to stop thieves making off with valuable kit.
She said: "How much important information is there about our patients on these computers? People's records could be on there, when is the NHS going to learn?
"We don't have security in our wards, our hospitals are very, very vulnerable - it's easy to get in and there's a lot of equipment lying around. There's nothing to stop people walking in and taking things."
She added: "Under the current set up someone could easily walk into a hospital carrying a knife, or out with a television.
"We need a format where visitors walk through metal detectors - similar to those you get at airports and the Scottish Parliament."
Under Freedom of Information legislation, Scotland's 14 NHS Boards revealed there have been a total of 693 incidents of theft in hospitals between January last year and September.
Under the current set up someone could easily walk into a hospital carrying a knife, or out with a television
Margaret Watt
Greater Glasgow and Clyde admitted 28 pieces of IT equipment had been reported stolen, while Grampian and Highland authorities said they had both lost five computers each.
Laptops, dictaphones and projectors vanished in NHS Lothian and computers and handheld electronic devices were among items stolen in Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Tayside and the Western Isles.
The Information Commissioner's Office yesterday said it would expect all serious data breaches to be reported and that all "sensitive personal data" should be encrypted.
A spokesman for Greater Glasgow and Clyde said security was always taken "extremely seriously" and claimed special software prevents information being accessed by thieves.
Meanwhile, prescription drugs were taken from NHS Lanarkshire and Tayside hospitals, with the latter also losing a sharps bin and drug vials too. Medication also disappeared from Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, Mackinnon Memorial Hospital in Broadford on Skye, Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen and a health centre in the Borders.
Five alarms - worth a total of £990 - used by Edinburgh Royal Infirmary's radiology department were stolen, as was £400-worth of surgical equipment from the capital's Dental Institute.
In addition, thousands of pounds worth of cash was reported stolen from staff, patients, canteens and even petty cash funds.
Cars and televisions were regularly targeted by light-fingered criminals, as was scrap metal, staff uniforms and jewellery.
However, thieves also opted to steal a range of unusual items, including a desk fan, garden fork, bathroom tap and Victorian baking oven.
Other strange thefts included a toothbrush, mop heads, microwaves, a payphone, food from a fridge and an old dishwasher, which was waiting to be scrapped.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: "Our NHS staff are busy enough without having to play the role of security guards as well.
"That's why hospitals have to redouble their efforts to ensure the belongings of workers and patients, as well as valuable medical equipment, is secure.
"Those caught stealing from hospital also have to be dealt with firmly by the law, ensuring the message sent is one of absolute zero tolerance."
A Scottish Government spokesman said it was up to NHS management to minimise thefts.
He added: "We have provided comprehensive security guidance to NHS boards to ensure a safe and secure environment for patients, staff, personal property, equipment and data." 

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