From the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office:
A former nurse at Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust has been prosecuted for accessing patients’ medical records without authorisation.
Clare Lawson who had been a staff nurse on the hospital’s Rehabilitation Ward since October 2011 had accessed patients’ medical records outside of her role.
The Court heard that Ms Lawson had inappropriately accessed the records – including maternity and paediatric records – of five patients, 17 times.
She also accessed a further 109 records of 18 patients of which one was a child. The activity occurred between 2014 and 2016.
It was also heard that Ms Lawson made multiple accesses to the records of some of these individuals including the blood results of a friend 44 times after they had been discharged, as well as foetal scans of another patient.
She was dismissed by the Trust in September 2017 for gross misconduct and has been referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
Ms Lawson, of Southport appeared before magistrates in Bootle on 24 September and admitted unlawfully obtaining and disclosing personal data, in breach of s55 of the Data Protection Act 1998. She was fined £400 and was also ordered to pay costs of £364.08 and a victim surcharge of £40.
ICO Director of Investigations, Steve Eckersley, said:
”This abuse of a position of trust has caused significant distress to a number of people. The laws on data protection are there for a reason and people have the right to know their highly sensitive personal information will be treated with appropriate privacy and respect.
“The ICO will continue to take action against those who abuse their position and potentially jeopardise the important relationship of trust and confidentiality between patients and the NHS.”
So I’m glad to see prosecutions, and I wish we saw more prosecutions here in the U.S., but I also somewhat regret that the only consequence is monetary and not jail time. Yes, I realize people may lose their professional licenses and livelihood, and that’s as it should be, but a little jail time might send a pretty powerful message, too.