Patient files found in secondhand filing cabinet

Over 100 data protection breaches involving sensitive personal information held by the HSE occurred during a recent 12-month period, internal documents have revealed.

Patient files found in secondhand filing cabinet

Medical notes being sent to the wrong patients, letters going missing from a consultant’s clinic, and a patient’s chart being left on a garden wall are among the litany of breaches detailed in the report.

As many as 16 laptops and phones containing confidential data were also reported lost or stolen by staff working for the HSE, according to documentation obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

In total, 103 incidents involving data protection breaches occurred between April 1, 2014, and April 1 this year.

In Cork, patient files were discovered by a member of the public in the drawer of a filing cabinet that they had purchased in a second-hand furniture shop in June 2014. The Data Protection Commissioner was notified of the incident.

In Sligo, a diary containing sensitive client information was misplaced by a community services worker but was later found on the roof of her car. However, a sealed envelope containing an assessment report that had been placed in the diary was not recovered.

Last November, data relating to 19 patients at Wexford General Hospital was found on the grounds of a housing estate. Affected parties were contacted by telephone and a meeting was held with doctors who had generated the report.

A number of incidents were reported in which patients were issued with the wrong documentation. This occurred at HSE South community addiction services in Cork last February, where two clients received each other’s correspondence.

In Limerick, a letter confirming a hospital appointment was mistakenly issued to the twin of a patient on two occasions in 2014. The incident resulted in staff being reminded of the importance of checking all patient details when creating appointments, according to the report.

Last September, an autism assessment report concerning a child was accidentally posted to the parents of another child who received the document in error.

An apology was issued but a similar incident occurred in March, when a report on a five-year-old with autism was put in the wrong envelope along with another child’s report and posted to the wrong family.

In Cavan/Monaghan mental health services, a folder containing clinical letters went missing from a consultant’s clinic last November. The folder was found in a photocopying room but the letters were not recovered.

The HSE did not comment on the FOI release.

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