The Consequences of Unlawfully Accessing Patient Records

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has reminded NHS staff about the consequences of accessing patients’ medical records without a valid reason. The warning comes following Brioney Woolfe’s recent prosecution at The Colchester Magistrates’ Court. Woolfe, a former health care assistant at Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust, breached patient confidentiality and the Data Protection Act by accessing the records of 29 people including family members, colleagues and others where no connection was known between December 2014 and May 2016. Some of the information was subsequently shared with others. Woolfe was ordered to pay a total of £1,715 in fines and costs.

The ICO’s Head of Enforcement Steve Eckersley has said: “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.”