The personal details of 1.6 million individuals were lost after they were placed on a CD that accidentally got sent to landfill.
According to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), Eastern and Coastal Kent Primary Care Trust sent to landfill a filing cabinet that contained the CD. The disc had on it the address, date of birth, NHS number and GP practice code of approximately 1.6 million patients.
The ICO said that when planning an office move, the trust deemed it appropriate to store the CD in the filing cabinet concerned. However, the project manager co-ordinating the move was not told about the existence of the CD.
It was also found that the team concerned was not up to date with its information governance training and had not accessed relevant guidance on how to dispose of the CD.
Despite efforts to retrieve the filing cabinet once the CD was discovered missing, the trust was unable to do so.
Considering the data controller's compliance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act and determining the remedial action that was taken by the data controller, the ICO said it would not serve an enforcement notice.
Chris McIntosh, CEO of ViaSat UK, said: “While we don't know the full details of how well secured the CD in question was – and the ICO's relatively muted reaction suggests that it may well have been protected – to lose 1.6 million patients' details in such a way still strays beyond carelessness and firmly into negligence.
“Whether the CD is lost forever or will end up in the right or wrong hands may still be unknown, but the stark fact is that the personal details of more than 2.5 per cent of the UK's population have been lost and could possibly be used for identity theft. In this case, the ICO has decided that a civil penalty should not apply, even though this summer it singled out the NHS as treading on thin ice with data breaches.”