Page last updated at 10:46 GMT, Friday, 3 October 2008 11:46 UK

New rules to protect patient data

documents (generic)
Patient records, files and X-rays were discovered at disused hospitals

Scottish NHS boards have been told they must enforce new rules to protect the personal information of patients.

It follows a series of blunders in which patient records were lost or left lying in disused hospitals

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has accepted the recommendations made in a report compiled by NHS Quality Improvement Scotland.

The new guidelines include protocols for the decommissioning of hospitals and staff training in data protection.

The Scottish Government launched an inquiry in May after patient information was discovered at the disused Strathmartine Hospital in Tayside.

The documents included details about a girl's adoption and a child with foetal alcohol syndrome.

Dissued buildings should not be used for the storage of any health records or personal information
All patient information should be stored in formal health records; and disposed of if not needed
New national protocols for NHS site decommissioning and disposal
Annual property transactions returns used to confirm that any surplus buildings are properly cleared and closed
All NHS staff adequately trained in data protection and information management
New guidance developed on the management of patient-identifiable information held by clinical staff who retire or leave their post.
In a similar case X-rays marked with patients' names, photographs and other paperwork were found scattered at Law Hospital in Carluke in July.

The Lanarkshire hospital had closed in 2001.

This prompted further calls for scrutiny and tighter restrictions regarding the protection of patient data.

Announcing the new guidelines, Ms Sturgeon said: ""Although the Strathmartine case was an isolated incident, breaches of data security should not be happening at all.

"Patients deserve to know that their right to confidentiality will be protected by the people who care for their health."

She added: "That means some rules need to be tightened and, just as importantly, that NHS staff need to be aware of exactly what their responsibilities are when it comes to information that can identify patients.

"This government is accepting NHS QIS's recommendations in full, and can assure patients that work is already under way to take these forward and ensure the security of all our health information."

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