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NHS Highland patient in Thurso 'flabbergasted' at claimed new data breach error

By Iain Grant

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Peter Todd claims a further data breach has occurred. Picture: Gary Anthony
Peter Todd claims a further data breach has occurred. Picture: Gary Anthony

NHS chiefs in the Highlands are at the centre of a second data breach probe in less than two months involving the same patient.

Thurso man Peter Todd said he was 'flabbergasted' on Monday to receive details of seven complaints made by other individuals.

The mix-up came after he was mistakenly sent medical information relating to another psychiatric patient in mid-March.

Accusing NHS Highland of gross incompetency, Mr Todd has made a follow-up referral to the Information Commissioner.

It adds to his large dossier of complaints with health board officers which he claims is linked to a bullying culture referred to in an official report into staff grievances.

The 39-year-old found the latest 'rogue' information in attachments to an email sent in response to his request for an update on the previous breach.

He said: "I was absolutely flabbergasted to find details of seven complaints from other psychiatric patients in the Highlands.

"There was enough information to identify the individuals and in one case it would not be hard to identify the GP who is being complained about as it was in a small, outlying area."

After contacting the Information Commissioner about the latest episode, Mr Todd was told it would be treated as a potential "high risk data breach".

"To me, it shows management has a cavalier approach to the Data Protection Act and patient confidentiality," he said.

"I think they have shown gross incompetency and it is high time the chief executive (Pam Dudek) starts to get control of the situation."

He had arranged to meet NHS Highland's interim mental health head Arlene Johnstone in Inverness earlier this week about his latest complaint.

As part of his earlier grievance, he raised concerns about how it was handled by two members of the north area management team, accusing one of professional misconduct.

He said: "My experience would indicate that the complaints system is designed to bury people's complaints.

"There's clearly a stigma for people who have psychiatric problems and management may think they won't stand up for themselves.

"I suspect the issues I have with them may be the tip of the iceberg and that there are systemic failings linked to the bullying culture that was found to exist with the management.

"I'm standing up to them but how many other patients have there been who have had to face similar issues but for whatever reason have not taken them on?"

Mr Todd said the Information Commissioner has given NHS Highland 72 hours to start an investigation into the latest alleged breach.

Mr Todd, of Mey Terrace, had previously lodged a series of complaints about how he has been dealt with by the health authority.

They include claims that managers intentionally deleted documents and other alleged data protection breaches.

He said: "I must have the world record for the number of complaints lodged with the Information Commission. It would be funny if it wasn't so serious."

Mr Todd continues to need professional help as he continues his recovery from a mental health condition linked to historic sexual abuse.

NHS Highland apologised for the March breach which it blamed on an administrative error.

NHS Highland's Caithness district manager acknowledged in an email to Mr Todd that the material he received on Monday "contained information which shouldn’t be there".

But the health board is denying a data breach has occurred.

A spokesman said yesterday: "We have asked the gentleman to provide more information in relation to this matter.

"From the information we have to date, there is no evidence of a personal data breach by NHS Highland.

"We would encourage the patient to contact our data protection team to discuss any concerns he may have."

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