I have just read an article about a NHS hospital that has had medical records of several patients found “blowing around in the street”
here is the link
This story brings my thoughts back to a time in the surgery when I arrived at work early one morning to find several torn up pieces of paper littering the car park around the back of the surgery building.
On investigating what it was I was mortified to see that the litter contained patient information – by sheer luck it was a wet day and the information was wet and had fact stuck fast to the ground and it was in torn up pieces – but I could still identify some patient information. I searched the grounds and by sheer luck there was only a few pieces that I found – I went over to the bin area and found that the lid to the bin had blown up, the bin was in fact full and the contents had blown out. The bin contained more patient information.
I made sure that every bit of patient information was removed from the bin and brought back inside and I investigated straight away why that information had found its way into the bins.
I discovered what had happened. We had a new member of staff join the Reception team the day before. She was working the late shift with one other Receptionist and the new Receptionist had not been shown where the confidential waste was to go so she disposed of the information in the normal office bin. The older serving Receptionist had printed off the next days surgeries (this was always done in case of a power cut and we would at least have a list of patients due into surgery the next day) That day’s list would then be destroyed.
There were numerous large marked containers around the surgery for all confidentiality waste to go into. The Receptionist gave the lists to the new Receptionist “thinking” the new Receptionist would know where it had to go – the new Receptionist had never worked in medical field before and had no idea of confidentiality and what it really meant, something that we all take for granted.
Our cleaners were also excellent and if they were ever in doubt about putting something in the normal bins they would ask someone. This particular day we had another cleaner covering as our usual one was on holiday.
A team includes everyone even the cleaners. In my experience including the cleaners in certain training sessions and keeping them updated with certain changes in the Surgery definitely helps in many way.
I completed an incident report form and I discussed this with staff at our next Team Meeting.
A big error made and we were completely at fault. This incident highlighted we cannot take anything for granted, especially when it come to new staff – training is vital, and so in ongoing training for older serving members of the team, and if you employ cleaners perhaps they should be included in confidentiality training, and if you have contract cleaners ensure that they are fully aware of confidentiality. It might save a lot of problems if something like this should happen.
I have recently completed confidentiality training to a organisation (not healthcare) and used this incident in the training sessions – several people over the two courses admitted that they didn’t destroy customer confidential information and just put it in the normal bins and agreed they would all be shredding all their confidential information from now on.