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Access Denied To Stolen GP Records

There is little chance of personal medical records stolen in Co Down over Christmas being read by the thieves.

The break-in happened at the surgery of Drs Hannah and McGoldrick at Pound Lane, Downpatrick, over the Christmas period, but the details of 5,400 patients on two computer hard disk drives and several DVDs were securely encrypted.

The news has only today been revealed with the South Health and Social Care Board insisting that security measures on the disks and the fact the DVDs were encrypted, made it unlikely the files could be accessed.

The police are investigating the theft of the records, and have also been probing an earlier blaze at the surgery, on 9 November, when thousands of patient files at the same practice were damaged in a fire.

It has also emerged that there was another fire at the surgery just over a week later.
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SDLP Health spokesperson Conall McDevitt said the Minister for Health Michael McGimpsey should order a review of data security in GP surgeries following the theft of the patient records

"Investigation of this incident should not be left at the level of the Board. People across the north are entitled to reassurance about security features to prevent unauthorized access.

"But there is also the issue of back-up disks being kept at the same location as the original information. It is very serious that the Board has been unable to reconstruct important patient information from other sources," he said.

"I understand there have been incidents of arson at other practices in the area, with the potential for total loss of information.

"The Minister should review data security systems for all GP surgeries and other holders of medical information both from the point of view of potential unauthorized access and sensible back-up and data recovery at separate locations," he concluded.


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