NHS Grampian

Loss of sensitive personal data.

How much
About 1,700 records.

Three separate incidents.

  • The inappropriate distribution of an email containing sensitive personal data relating to an individual.
  • Documents containing personal data of around 200 patients and staff were taken from a confidential waste bag.
  • An unencrypted laptop containing the personal data of over 1500 patients was stolen.


Regulatory action
Undertaking issued to ensure that all portable media devices used to store or transport personal data are suitably encrypted. Any personal data stored on portable devices must be backed up to the network server on a daily basis. Confirmation of success is to be obtained from the IT department and any failure corrected without delay. All staff must be made aware of the data controller’s policy for the storage and use of personal data and be trained to follow it. Physical security measures must be adequate to prevent unauthorised access to personal data.

Reason for action

  • A senior nursing manager distributing an email from another senior manager to over 50 other staff without first consulting either the sender of the data controller’s Information Governance Manager.
  • Documents were removed from a confidential waste bag held at a nursing station on the labour ward and sent to the data controller’s Chief Executive, claiming they’d been found in a skip. Investigations revealed that access to this waste could have been gained by staff, patients and even visitors. Many staff were unaware of the correct policies for disposing of sensitive waste.
  • An unencrypted laptop containing the entire database of patients suffering from a particular disease was stolen from a locked office. The laptop had not been successfully backed up to the data controller’s network server in the month prior to the theft, meaning that a small amount of this data was only stored on the laptop.
  • Finally the enquiries into these incidents revealed that certain staff were using home computers for work-related tasks involving personal data and then transferring that work via unencrypted USB sticks, in breach of the data controller’s policies and procedures.

3 September 2009

View PDF of the NHS Grampian Undertaking (Breach Watch Archive)