Belfast Telegraph

Patient’s shock after scan results emailed to stranger

By Adrian Rutherford

A patient whose medical test results were sent to the wrong person has described her anger at the blunder — after she was told of it by the Belfast Telegraph.

The letter, outlining the findings of a heart scan, was emailed in error by a member of staff within the Northern Trust. It was among a batch of letters relating to eight patients sent to a woman by mistake.

One woman whose personal information was leaked said she was shocked by the blunder.

She had kept details of the health scare secret, but learned of the error when contacted by the Belfast Telegraph yesterday — even though the trust was informed 24 hours earlier.

“This is a complete shock, I know nothing about it,” she said.

The letter, dated last summer, refers to a heart scan.

When informed of the letter, she replied: “Goodness, I did (undergo the test), but nobody knows that. All that I got done, I hid that from my mother. She knows nothing about anything. No-one does.”

The Belfast Telegraph revealed yesterday how the letters, which contained patients’ names, addresses and medical conditions, were emailed to the wrong person.

This newspaper immediately informed the trust, which was not aware of the leak.

A spokesman said yesterday that patients had been written to, and would receive letters shortly.

However, the patient said: “Really, it should have been the Northern Trust which got to me first.”

The Belfast Telegraph asked to speak to Northern Trust chief executive Sean Donaghy, but we were told he was unavailable.

Instead, the trust referred us to a statement on Wednesday which said “robust measures” were in place to deal with data breaches.

“In this instance we were not aware of this clerical error and are grateful that it has now been reported to us. We will contact the people affected and advise them of this incident,” it said.

“The trust regularly reviews its processes for managing patient information. The trust has in place training for staff which includes their responsibility in relation to patient confidentiality.”

The leaked letters were passed to the Belfast Telegraph by the woman who received them.

She said: “They identify people using their names, addresses and their Causeway Hospital reference number.”

”In some cases, there are details about the patient’s health sent to their doctor when the full information isn’t shared with the patient themselves – yet I could read all of it.”

Have you been affected by NHS data breaches? Contact or telephone 9026 4428.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph