Jeremy Hunt calls leak of HIV patient data ‘completely unacceptable’

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has hit out at a data breach by a leading London sexual health and HIV clinic, calling it “completely unacceptable”.

The clinic, 56 Dean Street, yesterday sent an email newsletter to the patients revealing the status, names and contact details of all 780 people to one another.

Speaking in Manchester at a conference, Mr Hunt said patient should be able to feel confident that NHS services would care for their personal data.

He said: “The truth is that we will throw this all away if we lose the public’s trust in our ability to look after their personal data securely.

“If we are going to win that trust we need to strengthen the independent oversight of data security within the NHS to a level that we don’t have at the moment.”

The clinic attributed the breach to “human error”, apologised to those named, and set up a helpline for anyone affected.

The apology, sent to PinkNews reads: “I’m writing to apologise to you. This morning at around 11.30am at we sent you the latest edition of OptionE newsletter.

“This is normally sent to individuals on an individual basis but unfortunately we sent out today’s email to a group of email addresses. We apologise for this error.

“We recalled/deleted the email as soon as we realised what had happened. If it is still in your inbox please delete it immediately.

“Clearly this is completely unacceptable. We are urgently investigating how this has happened and I promise you that we will take steps to ensure it never happens again. We will send you the outcome of the investigation.”

It is unclear what will happen next, however the clinic, which is run by the Chelsea and Westminster NHS trust, is likely to be subject to an investigation.

The Information Commissioner’s Office can levy fines of up to £500,000 for breaches.

Speaking to the BBC, one man named in the list said he “felt sick” when he realised what had happened.

He said: “I felt sick when I realised what had happened. I first saw the email at work but ignored it as I was busy. I then looked at it when I was on the way home from work. I couldn’t breathe.

“I’m concerned who will get this information. If it ends up in the hands of the wrong people, such as hate groups, it could be dynamite.”