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NHS fined £180,000 after London clinic leaks names of almost 800 HIV patients

By Rhys Matthews

The NHS has been fined £180,000 after a sexual health centre accidentally sent out a newsletter disclosing the names and email addresses of patients with HIV.

Last year it was reported that leading London clinic 56 Dean Street had sent a newsletter to around 780 patients who had signed up to the clinic’s Option E service, which lets patients book appointments and receive test results by email.

Instead of hiding the personal details of those on its recipient in a ‘BCC’ format, however, the email included their full names and addresses, so each was visible to all recipients.

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The Information Commissioner has now called the mistake a “serious breach of the law”, the BBC reports.

“The law demands this type of information is handled with particular care following clear rules and, put simply, this did not happen,” said Information Commissioner Christopher Graham. “it is clear that this breach caused a great deal of upset to the people affected.”

The investigation also found that the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which operates 56 Dean Street, made a similar mistake in 2010 when a pharmacy employee emailed a HIV treatment questionnaire to 17 patients, also entering emails in the “to” field and not the “bcc” field.

In the wake of the investigations findings, the Trust has issued a statement saying: “We fully accept the ruling of the ICO for what was a serious breach and we have worked to ensure that it can never happen again.”

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