Laptop with 1,500 patients' details stolen

August 1, 2008

By Brian Lashley

A LAPTOP containing confidential patient data has been stolen from a hospital by a burglar who climbed through an unlocked window.

The computer holds personal information about 1,581 patients attending a clinic at Stepping Hill Hospital, Hazel Grove, Stockport.

Hospital chiefs said the data is protected by a complex password system, which would be difficult to crack.

Security at the hospital has since been reviewed and stepped up.

The laptop was stolen along with a projector and personal items from a desk drawer during the burglary at an office block on the hospital site.

The hospital's CCTV cameras are thought to have captured images of the burglar, who it is believed was acting alone.

New alarms have been fitted around the hospital and plans are underway to boost surveillance around the site.

"Insecure window"

A police spokesman said: "The offender gained entry through an insecure window and our inquiries are ongoing."

Dr Chris Burke, hospital chief executive, said: "The burglary occurred at a locked office at Stepping Hill Hospital.

"The Trust believes it has captured images of the perpetrator on its system.

"It has reported the theft to Greater Manchester Police who are investigating.

"Amongst the items stolen was a laptop computer used for scheduling appointments, which held some patient information.

"This information was held on a secure system with three levels of password protection. The Trust believes it is unlikely that anyone would be able to access this data.


"Despite this low level of risk the Trust has written to 1,581 patients, who attended the clinic, to inform them of the incident.

"It has also set up a 24-hour telephone hotline to give assurance to any individuals who might be concerned."

Asked if the office window had been left unlocked a hospital spokesman said access was gained by `forced entry through a window."

Earlier this year the M.E.N revealed how personal medical information on about 4,000 Stockport area NHS patients was lost and they were not told.

A computer memory `stick' holding the information was lost by an NHS employee who had it clipped on a cord around her neck as she walked to her car.

It held the names, dates of birth and details of medical conditions of patients of Stockport Primary Care Trust as well as their NHS and trust numbers and details of their GPs.

And last week, the M.E.N reported how thousands of confidential patients' records have been stolen from a GPs' surgery. The data, belonging to 3,500 patients from Trinity Medical Centre, in Littleborough, Rochdale, was taken during a burglary at a separate site.

Anyone with information about the theft of the laptop from Stepping Hill between July 12 and 13 should contact police on 0161 872 5050.

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