GP surgeries, dentists, hospitals, pharmacies, opticians and other medical organisations hold very personal information about their patients. The sensitive patient information you provide must be kept up to date and stored safely so it doesn’t end up in the wrong hands and it is the medical service provider’s responsibility to do this. While this is often the case, mistakes can and do happen, and in this instance, you may be entitled to make a medical data breach compensation claim.
In this guide, we will outline everything you need to know about medical data breach compensation claims. We’ll discuss when you could claim compensation for a medical data breach, how to do so, how a medical data breach could occur and the effects a medical data breach can have on an individual.
What is a medical data breach?
When you visit a medical practitioner for treatment or when you register with them you often have to complete some paperwork. Within these forms you will likely see sections relating to the use of your personal information. The answers you provide to these sections will determine how the organisation can use your data and once you’ve specified your preferences these must be adhered to.
Every time you visit a doctor, optician, pharmacist, dentist or other medical practitioners, they collect data about you and add it to your file. This means they often have a lot of very personal and sensitive information about you. All information an organisation stores about you must be protected in accordance with data protection laws.
Under the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA) and The UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) your healthcare provider must protect your personal information. If they fail to do so, and you suffer as a result, you could be entitled to claim compensation.
A medical data breach can occur when a security breach results in your personally identifiable information being lost, disclosed, destroyed, altered or accessed in ways you have not authorised. This can happen for many different reasons such as human error or illegal hacking. It does not matter whether it was deliberate or accidental, if your data has been breached you could be entitled to compensation.
What happens when a medical data breach occurs?
A medical data breach occurs when your personal information held by a medical organisation is exposed or used in a way you did not authorise them to.
Data breaches can occur through both digital and printed documentation. For example, a medical data breach could occur if medical records containing the personal information of patients are thrown away instead of shredded and disposed of securely.
If a medical organisation discovers a data breach has occurred, they should inform you to let you know what happened, when the breach occurred and what information was accessed.
Examples of medical data breaches
There are many different ways a medical data breach can occur. Below we have outlined just a few common examples:
- If a medical computer system is hacked or infected with ransomware, malware or spyware
- If your medical records are not disposed of securely
- If your prescription is given to the wrong patient
- If your records are left out or open on an unlocked computer and non-medical staff read them
- If your records are accessed when there is no medical reason to do so
- If a letter or email for you is sent to the wrong address
- If your data is used in ways you did not authorise it to be, such as being involved in a trial in which you were not made aware of
These are just a few examples of incidents that could lead to medical data breaches. If you believe you have been the victim of a medical data breach, please get in touch with HNK Solicitors today and we can help you claim the compensation you deserve.
Who can you make a medical data breach compensation claim against?
Medical data breaches can occur through a range of medical practitioners including:
- GP surgeries
- Hospitals or trusts
- Dental surgeries
- Private healthcare companies
- Nursing homes
- Individual healthcare staff
- Rehabilitation clinics
- Walk-in centres
- Sexual health clinics
- Cosmetic surgery clinics
You may be able to make a claim if any of the above organisations have misused or mishandled your data. Medical data breach claims can be made against both NHS and private healthcare providers.
Reporting a medical data breach to the ICO
If you have been the victim of a medical data breach and want further action to be taken against the company, you can report the breach to the ICO. If you believe your data has been breached the ICO suggest you approach the organisation you believe has breached the data as soon as possible, informing them of your concerns. You should ask that they investigate this matter and let them know how the breach has affected you. It is best to do this in writing and keep a record of the contact you’ve made.
If the organisation does not respond or you feel their response is inadequate, you may be able to make a complaint to the ICO. You should do this within three months of your last meaningful contact with the organisation as after this the ICO may not investigate.
There have been a number of previous examples where the ICO have taken action against medical organisations for breach of data protection. For example, in 2016 the ICO fined an NHS sexual health clinic in London £180,000 after they leaked the details of almost 800 patients who had attended HIV clinics. The clinic mistakenly sent a group newsletter email using the CC function instead of BCC, revealing the recipients’ names and email addresses to everyone who received the email.
The ICO can take action against the organisation but they cannot help you get compensation for a data breach. Reporting a medical data breach to the ICO does not mean you cannot make a medical data breach compensation claim as well. Get in touch with HNK to start your claim today.
What can you claim compensation for after a medical data breach?
If your data has been breached this can affect you in many ways. Depending on the data that was breached it could lead to financial losses. For example, they could use your data to apply for finance in your name or even access your bank accounts, causing long term financial harm.
Data breaches can also have a huge emotional toll on an individual causing you to suffer significant psychological distress. For example, you could feel worried and stressed that individuals have access to your personal data or anxious about what they may do with this information. This emotional strain could then affect your ability to work which could result in a loss of earnings.
When making a data breach claim you can claim for two types of damages:
Material damages: this is where you can claim for any costs, expenses or financial losses incurred because of the breach.
Non-material damages: this is when you claim for any psychological harm you’ve suffered as a result of the breach such as emotional distress, stress, anxiety or depression.
How much medical data breach compensation can you claim?
The compensation you could receive for a medical data breach can vary from case to case depending on how serious it was and how the breach has affected you. Even if you haven’t suffered direct financial damages, you can still claim compensation for the emotional distress you’ve suffered as a result. To calculate the extent of the psychological damage we would arrange for an assessment by a medical professional and based on their report we could determine how much compensation you could receive for your claim.
Get in touch with one of our expert data breach solicitors today to get an idea of how much compensation you could receive from your medical data breach. By consulting a professional data breach solicitor, we can ensure you get the maximum amount of compensation possible for your claim, as well as make the process easier and a lot less stressful.
How to make a medical data breach compensation claim
If you believe you have been the victim of a medical data breach, get in touch with HNK Solicitors today. Email us at email@example.com, give us a call on 0151 668 0816 or fill in the enquiry form on our website and one of our advisors will be in touch. We are experts in the field of data breach claims and can help you to get the compensation you deserve.
We offer a no-win, no-fee service which means you don’t have to pay a penny upfront to start your claim. Contact us today to organise a free consultation where we will assess the details of your case and be able to inform you if you’re entitled to make a claim.