HomeInsightsInformation Commissioner’s Office fines GP practice for failing to protect patient’s personal data.

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A GP practice that revealed confidential details about a woman and her family to her estranged ex-partner has been fined £40,000 by the Information Commissioner.

Regal Chambers, in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, gave out the information despite express warnings from the woman that staff should take particular care to protect her details.

The information was provided after the ex-partner made a request for the medical records of the former couple’s son.  Staff at the GP practice responded with 62 pages of information that included the woman’s contact details as well as those of her parents and an older child the man was not related to.

An ICO investigation found that the GP practice had insufficient systems in place to guard against releasing unauthorised personal data to people who were not entitled to see it.

The information was released in July 2014 in response to a Subject Access Request.  The person responsible for handling the request advised the child’s GP about it, but in the absence of a sufficient written procedure, went ahead and released everything.  The ICO’s investigation found staff did not receive adequate guidance or supervision about what could be disclosed or should be withheld.

Mr Eckersley, the ICO’s Head of Enforcement, said: “In failing to ensure staff were properly equipped to safeguard against unauthorised disclosures, this medical practice placed a member of its team in the firing line.  It was unfair to expect this person to deal with the potentially devastating fall-out created by sharing personal data wrongly.  GPs could have protected staff by providing proper support, training and guidance.  They did not do this”.

The ICO issued a fine of £40,000 only because the practice’s partners would be individually liable.  However, because of the serious nature of the breach, most organisations would expect to receive a much larger fine.  To read the ICO’s press release in full and for a link to the monetary penalty notice, click here.