HOSPITAL chiefs in Bradford have started an urgent probe after a document with personal medical information about child patients was found abandoned in a car park.
David Gallagher found the sheet blowing around while he was walking and took it home before studying the contents.
It contains a log of the names and ages of a number of seriously ill children under the care of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and gives specific details of their conditions and treatments they have been receiving.
The Trust has accepted the loss of the document is a serious breach of confidentiality and it is now trying to find the source of the document and how it came to be lost.
It has also reported the incident to the Information Commissioner.
Mr Gallagher, 50, of Odsal, said: "I was walking the dog at seven or eight in the morning and picked up some paper.
"It is really worrying. Something like this should not leave a locked hospital filing cabinet.
"I just picked up one sheet of paper, I've no idea if there were any more. I wasn't really paying attention, I had been walking around the car park dodging showers. I wish I had paid more attention to see if there were any more, but I didn't have my glasses so didn't read it until later."
The names and ages of about eight children were included in the document, with patients aged from days old to 15 years.
A Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: “Protecting patient information is of paramount importance to the Trust and we are taking this breach of confidentiality extremely seriously, a full investigation is now under way.
"The small number of patients affected by this have been contacted and offered our sincere apologies.
"We have reported this incident to the Information Commissioner and would like to thank the member of the public for bringing the matter to our attention.”
A spokesman for the Information Commissioner said its investigation would determine what action was necessary.
He said: "We have been made aware of a possible data breach which may involve Bradford NHS Teaching Hospitals.
"We will be making inquiries into the circumstances of the alleged breach of the Data Protection Act before deciding what action, if any, needs to be taken."
He added: "If we do decide to take action, we have a range of enforcement actions available to us.
"We can get them to sign an undertaking to improve their data protection practices, or sign an enforcement notice which says they have to stop now what they are doing.
"If it is a severe breach, causing damage or distress, we can issue penalties up to half a million pounds.
"We can also offer advice or just let them know how to improve their practices."