Medical records containing intimate details of patients being treated in a Western Trust hospital have been dumped in a Derry woman's garden.
The confidential documents of 17 different elderly patients from the Waterside Hospital included instructions to doctors not to resuscitate certain patients.
They were discovered by a woman in a bin bag which had been thrown into her garden.
The Trust has confirmed that the documents are genuine and has launched an investigation.
No-one was available for interview, but a spokeswoman said: “The data breach has been reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office.”
She continued: “Eight A4 pages — containing sensitive personal information relating to 17 clients in the Western Trust area — were discovered in a bag in a member of the public’s garden in the greater Derry area.
“The Trust has now secured the information and has commenced a full investigation.
“The Trust would like to extend its thanks to the member of the public for bringing the matter to its attention on 23 April, 2013 and ensuring the information was promptly returned to the Trust.”
The patients named on the papers range in age from 76 and 93, with DNR written beside six of the names.
This is a medical abbreviation for Do Not Resuscitate, whereby either the patient or their next of kin make a legal order to the staff of the hospital not to administer CPR or heart massage if the patient's heart stops or if they stop breathing.
Other notes referred to medication, treatment and previous medical histories were also easily read and, in addition, hand-over notes from nurses between shifts and transfers between wards were also recorded. The Waterside hospital on the outskirts of the city treats elderly patients, many of whom with ailments that include mental health difficulties or degenerative conditions such as Parkinson's Disease, Motor Neurone Disease or Multiple Sclerosis.
The woman who made the concerning discovery opened the bin bag in an attempt to discovery who had dumped it in the garden or her Rossnagalliagh home.
Preferring not to be named, she said that she had been shocked and horrified by what she uncovered.
She said: “I thought that this sort of information would have been held at the hospital or disposed of properly.
“I was really taken aback because if it was one of my relatives I wouldn't like to think that their private business was out there in the public domain.”
The woman returned the notes to the hospital after she realised their sensitivity.