The Health and Social Care Board was today briefed at its public meeting in Belfast on the outcome of an investigation carried out to safeguard personal and confidential information.
The HSCB takes the protection of confidential information extremely seriously and in December 2011 asked the Cabinet Office to engage an independent team to carry out an investigation into the possible unauthorised removal of documents relating to the former Lissue and Forster Green hospitals.
Part of the independent team’s remit was to also review current information management arrangements to ensure the HSCB is taking all possible steps to protect information.
Board members were advised that questionnaires were issued to 80 people who had, or were likely to have had access to a number of relevant documents; that a number of current and former members of staff from the HSCB, Public Health Agency and other organisations subsequently met with the investigating team; and that the investigation, undertaken from December 2011 to April 2012, cost a total of £33k.
The investigation concluded that it was highly probable that specific files relating to personal and confidential information had been copied from HSCB or Public Health Agency records and that consequently the source was likely to have been a member or former member of staff.
The investigation team also confirmed that effective information governance arrangements were in place, however, identified a number of measures to strengthen the security of the building and protect the integrity of records held.
HSCB Chief Executive Mr John Compton said the investigation needed to be carried out so the public could have confidence in how the Board stored and managed confidential information.
“It has been suggested that this was a hunt for whistleblowers. This simply is not true. This was first and foremost about protecting personal and confidential information about patients, families and staff.
“The Health Service holds a high volume of personal and confidential records and it is essential that the public are assured that the Board is taking all appropriate steps to safeguard the information it holds.
“The investigation was carried out in a very open and transparent manner. Staff, staff organisations and Board members were kept informed of the process and why it was being carried out.
“As a result of this process we will be in a stronger place to safeguard the information we hold,” he said.
Mr Compton added: “The Board has a very effective whistle-blowing policy and encourages staff who have concerns to raise them through this policy.
“HSCB and PHA staff were very concerned that a potential security breach had taken place and were happy to assist the investigation to ensure that nothing like this happened again.
“Both organisations will continue to take robust and appropriate steps to ensure that patients and staff have confidence that when they provide personal information it will be protected.”