COUNTY NEWS: East Sussex patient details found on USB stick

Confidential patients’ details and records were discovered on a memory stick lying in a St Leonards street.

Conquest Hospital
Conquest Hospital

Mel Simpkinson, of New Moorsite, Westfield, spotted the USB stick, containing details of East Sussex patients, in Oasthouse Close behind the Conquest Hospital on Monday morning (June 15).

She took it home, thinking it was someone’s treasured photographs and intended to post one of the pictures on social media in a bid to reunite the memory stick with its owner.

But she was shocked to find patients’ private records instead when she plugged the USB stick into her laptop computer.

Mel said: “I am baffled someone could mislay such information like this. How could this even happen?

“If information about me had been on that memory stick, I would want a full investigation to take place. You should not be that careless with something like this.

“I found the stick in Oasthouse Close at around 10.30am on Monday. A lot of the doctors at the Conquest usually park in that street.

“I found the stick on the ground, thinking someone had lost their irreplaceable photographs.

“The plan was to put one of the pictures up on social media in order to find the stick’s owner.

“Instead I saw patients’ names, dates of birth and information about patients and reasons for visiting the Conquest.”

Mel disconnected the stick from her laptop as soon as she saw what was on it.

She added: “If this had fallen into the wrong hands, a lot of people could have fallen victim to ID fraud.”

Darren Grayson, chief executive of East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs both the Conquest and Eastbourne District General Hospital (DGH), said: “The trust would like to reassure all patients that it takes the security of their personal information extremely seriously and that this was an isolated incident.

“We are extremely grateful to the member of the public who handed in the memory stick promptly. Thanks to their actions we have no reason to believe any of the information held on the stick has been accessed, downloaded, kept or passed on.

“Trust policy states that all memory sticks used by staff should be encrypted, so the information cannot be accessed by anyone else.

“The trust has reported the incident to the Information Commissioners Office and the Department of Health.

“We have also reminded all staff about their responsibilities and the trust’s policy around mobile technology and patient information.

“We have commenced an investigation into this incident and will be writing to each of the patients affected individually as soon as possible to make them aware of the incident and the actions the trust will be taking.

“If any member of the public has any concerns at this stage, we would ask them to contact the trust’s Patient Advice and Liaison Service on 01424 758090.”

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