Digital Transformation

FOI request shows serious data incidents at ambulance trust

There was quite a high number of data breaches at one ambulance trust last year, it has been found.

A Freedom of Information request in Sussex has hinted at the number of data breaches that could be taking place within the ambulance services across the country every year.

The South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) covers Sussex, Kent and Surrey and it admitted that it has investigated 32 serious incidents in the past 12 months, the Argus reports.

Among these ‘serious incidents requiring investigation’ (SIRI) were cases of confidential patient information being sent to the wrong people.

For example, one incident saw a member of staff finding paperwork at the house of one person that did not belong to them and displayed information about a completely different person. The paperwork had to be forwarded to a hospital so that the mistake could be rectified.

In another case, vulnerable persons report forms were accidentally faxed to a private business, which shredded them to avoid seeing potentially sensitive information.

An investigation found that instead of programming the number into the machine at the Emergency Operations Centre, staff had been manually entering it in each time, increasing the likelihood of a misdial.

Reassuring members of the public in this area, a SECAmb spokesman commented: "SIRIs are declared by the trust itself and do not on their own indicate patient harm. Each incident is the subject of a thorough investigation."

They added that such incidents need to be seen in context, as thousands of calls and their associated paperwork are put through without any problems each year, suggesting that they could instead be viewed as a learning tool.

Last month, Pulse magazine revealed that for the 55 hospital trusts that could provide comparable year-on-year statistics, there were 2,805 confidentiality breaches or losses of patient data in 2012/13.

This was a 20 per cent increase on the 2,337 recorded in 2011/12 and could suggest the NHS needs to make better use of document and microfiche scanning for storage and sharing purposes.