Laptop theft leaves patients furious

A PENSIONER has spoken of his fury after learning he was one of thousands of patients whose personal details were on a laptop which was stolen from a senior hospital manager's car.

Annie Davidson

A PENSIONER has spoken of his fury after learning he was one of thousands of patients whose personal details were on a laptop which was stolen from a senior hospital manager's car.

Vernon Sitch received a letter from the Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust's chief executive Peter Murphy yesterday informing him of the theft.

The personal details, which had been stored unencrypted on the laptop, included names, dates of birth, postcodes and treatment plans.


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The manager has been suspended while the trust and the Scottish police carry out an investigation into the theft.

The laptop was stolen on June 18 from the manager's vehicle in a car park in Edinburgh in Scotland.

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All the information on the computer had been copied as well as held on a patient database at Colchester General Hospital.

Mr Sitch, of Cherrywoods, Great Bentley, said: “To be honest I am not very happy at all.

“What was the laptop doing in Scotland in the first place?

“I think the security must be highly lax and the letter says that it (laptop) has got a password but there are ways and means of getting into computers without passwords.

“It makes me feel that if they cannot guarantee security then do I want to tell them anything?”

The 74-year-old said his wife Edna had recently had someone try to hack into her bank account but the bank had prevented it from happening.

“The one relief is that no bank details have been lost,” he added.

Mr Sitch said the medical details could have referred to treatment he had received at Christmas for an irregular heart beat in Colchester and then Basildon hospitals.

His views were echoed by Peter Crisell who received a similar letter yesterday at his home in Nayland and branded it “meaningless garbage full of excuses for their own shortcomings.”

“I am appalled at what has happened and can't believe that in spite of everything that has happened elsewhere in the country they have taken no notice of the warnings,” he said.

“It is gross negligence.”

Mr Murphy said yesterday: “The trust offers all affected patients its sincere apologies for putting their confidential information at risk.

“The computer was password-protected and only authorised staff with the correct password could access the data. But as the data was not encrypted there is a very small chance that patient details can be accessed.”

He added: “We are holding an investigation into how this incident occurred and its consequences and have suspended the member of staff involved until the investigation concludes.

A trust spokesman said he did not know why the laptop had been taken to Scotland or the exact location of the break-in.

Police said no one had been arrested over the theft which was reported at 3.20pm on June 18.

A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Police said: “We are investigating the theft of a laptop computer from a car in an Edinburgh car park on June 18.

“Our inquiries are ongoing.”

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