Watchdog makes example of former Colchester NHS hospital worker from Dovercourt fined for peeking at patients’ records
- Credit: Archant
A former midwifery assistant from Essex has been sacked and fined for ‘letting personal curiosity get the better of her’ and illegally snooping at patient records.
Brioney Woolfe accessed personal information without consent of 29 people, including family members and colleagues, between December 2014 and May 2016 while employed by Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust.
She went on to share some of those details with others.
The 28-year-old, of Stour Close, Dovercourt, pleaded guilty to two offences under the Data Protection Act at a hearing at Colchester Magistrates’ Court.
Described as nosy during the proceedings, Woolfe was fined £400 for obtaining personal data and £650 for disclosing it, ordered to pay prosecution costs of £600 and a victim surcharge of £65.
Woolfe was fired from the trust in October 2016.
The case is one of several prosecutions led by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in recent months involving staff illegally accessing health records.
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Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO, the UK’s data protection watchdog, warned professionals against prying into patients’ medical data without a valid reason.
He said: “Once again we see an NHS employee getting themselves in serious trouble by letting their personal curiosity get the better of them.
“Patients are entitled to have their privacy protected and those who work with sensitive personal data need to know that they can’t just access it or share it with others when they feel like it.
“The law is clear and the consequences of breaking it can be severe.”
A spokesman for Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust said updated information governance training was provided to all maternity staff as a direct consequence of this case.
He added: “It is essential that all NHS organisations use and store patient information appropriately and securely, and we take any breach extremely seriously.
“The trust received a complaint from a man who suspected that a healthcare assistant had been accessing his records inappropriately.
“We immediately investigated and suspended the member of staff and also notified Essex Police and the ICO.
“Our investigation upheld the complaint and we apologised to the complainant. We instigated disciplinary proceedings and dismissed the member of staff in October last year.”