Philosophy of The Big Society

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Friday, 7 November 2008

So much for confidentiality!!!

Alarm over psychiatric report sent to business
9:27am Friday 7th November 2008

An investigation has been started after confidential psychiatric reports about a troubled teenager were accidentally faxed to a businessman.

The two reports were produced by mental health bosses after the youth threatened to rape, shoot and stab his family and friends.

But in a blunder which mental health charities described as “deeply troubling”, youth workers sent the six-page document containing the detailed personal history of the teenager, including his home address and telephone number, to a businessman’s office instead of the housing organisation it was intended for.

The business partner of the man who received the report has a child at the same school as the 16-year-old and knows him.

The Hove-based businessman, who asked not to be named, said: “It is outrageous that a very personal document like this could be sent out to me by mistake.

“You would think they would be far more careful about whose hands this sort of report gets in to, but that obviously isn’t the case.”

The reports describe how the boy has been “cruising” websites looking for “fellow gun aficionados” and claims he has had access to firearms in the past.

One of the reports was written by Dr Julia Sheeran from Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which runs mental health services across the county.
In it she wrote: “I was asked to see the boy as an emergency after him making persistent and worrying threats to shoot/stab/rape his family and pupils at his school.”

The report goes on to say the teen, from Hove, does not present an immediate risk to society but does need help from a number of organisations.

The document was faxed by a social worker from Brighton’s Children and Young People’s Trust, a partnership organisation led by Brighton and Hove City Council on Thursday morning last week.

It was meant to be received by a worker at YAC Housing, a branch of the YMCA in West Street, Brighton. The council has promised an investigation but said it is unlikely the individual who sent the fax would face disciplinary action.

A spokesman said: “We take this very seriously. It is letting confidential information on a vulnerable young person be seen by people who should not see it.
“We will investigate thoroughly and ensure that a lapse like this does not happen again.”

A spokesman for Sane, the mental health charity said: “It is essential people with mental illness are able to place their trust in the professionals and institutions charged with their care. “Therefore, it is deeply troubling that sensitive, confidential information regarding someone’s mental health history should have been accidentally faxed to a member of the public.

“It is vital that healthcare professionals have clear guidance regarding the data they are handling, and we would hope that better safeguards are put in place to prevent this happening again.”

Hove MP Celia Barlow described the situation as “disturbing” and urged the council to investigate urgently.


  1. This would explain why there is a big notice beside the fax machine at work asking people to double-check they a) have the right number and b) have keyed in the right number, even if they are sure, just as a ritual/safety check. For something like this, you'd expect second person verification to be part of the procedure.

    This is to avoid client X accidentally getting client Y's documents and client Y sueing us for millions as a result.

    Jesus. I would expect any workplace that faxes confidential info to have the same provisions. Obviously not.

  2. Hi Deedee

    I don't get why these things keep in the basic level of understanding and savvy is missing.

    The NHS goes out of its way to produce procedures and protocols for everything it does and then never follows them!!!