Patient details stolen from reception desk at hospital

Karen Attenburgh with brother Robert McGovern and sister Sonya Bridgman
Karen Attenburgh with brother Robert McGovern and sister Sonya Bridgman
Have your say

THE personal details of more than 100 patients were stolen from accident and emergency at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, it has emerged.

The documents contained personal details of 106 patients, including names, addresses, GP contacts and dates of birth, and were understood to have been lifted from a reception desk.

Some files also had medical records attached and everyone affected has been written to by NHS Lothian to alert them to the situation.

The records were recovered 12 hours after being taken and police have arrested a man in connection with the incident.

Politicians today urged NHS Lothian to improve its security, while health chiefs have launched an investigation into how the incident on August 19 was allowed to happen.

Patients involved and their families are now concerned about what might have happened with the records between the theft and items being recovered by officers.

One of the people affected was 45-year-old rail worker Karen Attenburgh, from Northfield.

Her anger was compounded by the fact that health bosses addressed a letter about the incident to her mother, Marian Leppard, in Bingham, who passed away at the hospital on August 5 after suffering a respiratory illness.

Mrs Attenburgh said: “I still haven’t had an explanation as to why her personal files were sitting on a reception desk a fortnight after she died.

“We don’t know what’s happened with the information, or who it has been passed to.

“Now we’re just waiting for some bill or anything coming through the post. It’s been a really difficult time and this made it all the worse.”

It is not the first time the health board has had to launch a security review.

In July 2008, a health worker lost a memory stick with 137 patient records on it, prompting a stiff tightening of data protection.

Jackie Baillie, Labour’s health spokeswoman in Scotland, said: “It is essential that personal information is kept in the most secure place possible and there’s clearly a need to review the procedures operated by NHS Lothian.”

Jackie Sansbury, NHS Lothian’s chief operating officer, said: “Items were stolen from the A&E reception at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh on August 19.

“Police arrested and charged a man in connection with the theft, and the items were returned to us within 24 hours.

“NHS Lothian takes any breach of patient confidentiality very seriously. We have contacted all the individuals involved to alert them to the incident.

“We have also launched an internal investigation and we have already improved our processes and security as a result.”

A police spokesman said: “Lothian and Borders Police can confirm that a 49-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the theft of items from the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh on Friday, August 19.

“He has been released on undertaking and is due to appear at court at a later date.”