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What to do if you’ve suffered an NHS GDPR breach

The NHS is one of the UK’s best-loved institutions – and for good reason. For 75 years, the NHS has been providing healthcare to millions of people across the UK. During that time, it has changed countless lives by offering free access to vital medical treatment.

However, in order to deliver this world-beating level of care, the NHS has to store and process a huge quantity of sensitive personal data. In order to effectively support your healthcare needs, the NHS has to store data on conditions you suffer with and treatment you’ve been receiving – alongside other personal data such as your name and address, of course.

As you can imagine, this kind of data can cause significant issues if it’s not properly safeguarded. The impact of having private medical data shared without your authorisation can be severe, leading to distress and anxiety as well as to potential financial losses.

That’s why it’s so important to know what to do if you’ve suffered an NHS GDPR breach. In this post, we’ll explain what an NHS GDPR breach is, how to know if you’ve been affected, and what you can do to protect yourself – including seeking compensation.

An image of tiny caution cone sat on top of a keyboard.

What is an NHS GDPR breach?

In the UK, there are strict regulations that organisations must adhere to if they store or process personal data – and the NHS is no different. One of the key pieces of legislation is the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

As we’ve discussed in detail in a previous post, the GDPR is designed to ensure that every organisation that stores personal data, including the NHS, takes steps to prevent this data from being accessed by unauthorised people. Unfortunately, sometimes the NHS fails to meet these expectations. The result is an NHS GDPR breach.

But what does this look like in practice?

 

NHS data breach examples

An NHS data breach can take many different forms – and this is part of what makes the prospect so concerning. Some examples include:

  • Cyberattacks. Cybercrime gangs have increasingly seen the NHS as a target, given it has access to large amounts of sensitive personal data. There has been a spate of recent attacks on NHS trusts, including on Barts Health, one of the largest NHS trusts in the UK. A further risk comes from IT partners who work with the NHS, such as the recent attack on the software supplier Advanced, who help to deliver the 111 service.
  • Unauthorised access. As well as external threats, there are also internal risks the NHS has to contend with. The NHS is one of the world’s largest employers, and many of its staff need to access personal data in order to perform their roles. Unfortunately, this leads to a risk of unauthorised access, as in a recent case where a staff member accessed patient records of people known to them.
  • Sharing personal data without consent. In some cases, the NHS may need to share your personal data with other organisations – for instance, if you’re receiving private medical treatment or if you have health insurance. However, in most cases, they will need your permission to do so. If they share your data without your permission, this may be an NHS GDPR breach, as in the case of one of our previous clients, whose health records were shared with the police without their consent.

These are just some of the ways in which an NHS GDPR breach can take place. As you can see, there are many different types of data breach that can put your personal information at risk. This can no doubt be a worrying prospect – and that’s why it’s important to know what to do if you do suffer from an NHS GDPR breach.

A picture of lots of paper files stacked up in a hospital.

Who do you report an NHS GDPR breach to?

If you think you may have been the victim of the NHS GDPR breach, the first step is to make a complaint to the NHS trust or service responsible. They have an obligation to respond to such complaints, and to explain how and why they are using your data in a particular way. They should do so within a calendar month of receiving your complaint.

If the organisation fails to respond within this timeframe, or you are not satisfied with their response, you can make a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The ICO is responsible for enforcing data protection regulations in the UK, and can force an organisation to respond to your complaint in a more appropriate way.

However, it’s worth noting that the ICO cannot award compensation as the result of a data breach. Read on below to find out more about NHS GDPR breach claims.

 

What should I do if I’ve suffered an NHS GDPR breach?

If your personal data has been exposed through an NHS GDPR breach, you’ll understandably be worried. As we’ve highlighted above, much of the personal data the NHS stores is highly sensitive.

If details of any health conditions are exposed to unauthorised access, this can be an upsetting experience. And this is in addition to the normal risks that go along with any data breach, including financial losses, identity fraud and reputational damage.

That means it’s imperative to respond to an NHS data breach in a way that will protect you as effectively as possible. Your first step is to speak directly with the NHS trust or service that suffered the breach in order to find out exactly what information was exposed, and how many people may have been able to access it.

Then, we would recommend taking steps to prevent identity fraud or any financial losses, including getting in touch with your bank and being vigilant to check for unexpected activity on your account. You may also want to change any passwords you use for online accounts, to reduce the risk of unauthorised access.

Finally, it’s important to consider seeking compensation. If an NHS GDPR breach has had a significant impact on your life, compensation can help you move on from the incident. Read on below to find out how an NHS data breach compensation claim works.

 

Claiming compensation for an NHS confidentiality breach

Under the GDPR, data breach victims are entitled to seek compensation to help offset any damages they have suffered. This can include both material damages, such as financial losses, or non-material damages, including emotional distress or anxiety.

If you have experienced any of these issues as the result of an NHS data breach, you should consider pursuing a compensation claim. As we’ve discussed above, the ICO cannot award compensation as a result of a data breach. Instead, you’ll need to pursue a claim by taking the organisation responsible to court.

This may seem like a major step. But with the support of an experienced solicitor, it doesn’t have to be an arduous process. The key thing is to ensure you are being advised and supported by a solicitor who has an in-depth understanding of data protection regulations. This will give you the best chance of securing the compensation you deserve.

A picture of classified files.

HNK Solicitors can support your NHS GDPR breach claim

An NHS data breach can have a significant impact on your life. The prospect of having your sensitive personal data exposed to unauthorised access is a worrying one, and the consequences can be severe. That’s why it’s so important to seek a compensation claim if you have been the victim of an NHS GDPR breach.

Here at HNK Solicitors, we have extensive experience helping our clients seek compensation following a data breach. As expert data breach solicitors, we can provide tailored advice and support for anyone seeking to pursue a data breach compensation claim.

We offer free, no-obligation consultations, so if you have been the victim of an NHS data breach, get in touch today. If we do think you are entitled to compensation, we can offer to take up your claim on a no-win, no-fee basis. That means that if you don’t receive any compensation, you won’t owe us a penny.

To arrange your consultation, get in touch today on 0151 668 0809, or email us at enquiries@hnksolicitors.com.

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