Probe reveals scale of thefts from Scottish hospitals

Security to be stepped up amid fears thieves could access potentially-sensitive patient data

Health boards in Scotland are being ordered to step up security after a national newspaper investigation revealed dozens of items containing potentially-sensitive patient information have been stolen from hospitals.

The Sunday Express investigation found that around 80 items including laptops, memory sticks, dictaphones and smartphones, have disappeared since January 2012.

Drugs, medical equipment, prescription pads and cars have also been taken, along with more bizarre items such as a garden fork, dishwasher and Victorian baking oven.

Following the revelations, campaigners and politicians are calling on health boards to enhance security.

Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association, even suggested the introduction airport-style scanners to stop thieves making off with valuable kit.

She said: "How much important information is there about our patients on these computers? People's records could be on there. When is the NHS going to learn?

Under the current set-up someone could easily walk into a hospital carrying a knife, or walk out with a television

"We don't have security in our wards, our hospitals are very, very vulnerable - it's easy to get in and there's a lot of equipment lying around. There's nothing to stop people walking in and taking things."

She added: "Under the current set-up someone could easily walk into a hospital carrying a knife, or walk out with a television.

"We need a format where visitors walk through metal detectors - similar to those you get at airports and the Scottish Parliament."

Responding to a Freedom of Information request by the Sunday Express , Scotland's 14 NHS Boards revealed there have been a total of 693 incidents of theft in hospitals between January last year and September this year.

Greater Glasgow and Clyde admitted 28 pieces of IT equipment had been reported stolen, while Grampian and Highland authorities said they had both lost five computers each.

Laptops, dictaphones and projectors vanished in NHS Lothian and computers and hand-held electronic devices were among items stolen in Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Tayside and the Western Isles.

The Information Commissioner's Office yesterday said it would expect all serious data breaches to be reported and that all 'sensitive personal data' should be encrypted.

ur NHS staff are busy enough without having to play the role of security guards as well. That's why hospitals have to redouble their efforts to ensure the belongings of workers and patients, as well as valuable medical equipment, is secure

A spokesman for Greater Glasgow and Clyde said security was always taken 'extremely seriously' and claimed special software prevented information being accessed by thieves.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman, Jackson Carlaw, added: "Our NHS staff are busy enough without having to play the role of security guards as well. That's why hospitals have to redouble their efforts to ensure the belongings of workers and patients, as well as valuable medical equipment, is secure.

"Those caught stealing from hospital also have to be dealt with firmly by the law, ensuring the message sent is one of absolute zero tolerance."

A Scottish Government spokesman said it was up to NHS management to minimise thefts.

He added: "We have provided comprehensive security guidance to NHS boards to ensure a safe and secure environment for patients, staff, personal property, equipment and data."

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