Last night’s documentary Erasing David shows how private eyes tracked down a target by making false pretext telephone calls to the NHS. By pretending to be him they found out when he and his wife were due to attend an ante-natal clinic, and ambushed him as he came out.
The NHS has form on this. Back in 1995 the BMA got me to draw up guidelines for dealing with phone calls; they appeared in the BMJ on Jan 13 1996. When staff at the N Yorks Health Authority were trained to follow these guidelines, they found 30 false-pretext calls a week. When the BMA reported this to the Chief Medical Officer and asked him to implement the protocol throughout the NHS, he was furious at our interference in “his” admninistrative procedures. The NYHA was ordered to stop. I told the story in my book.
I have long considered it unacceptable for the NHS to continue to ignore operational security. The new electronic record systems at a number of hospitals give receptionists access not just to appointment details but to clinical data too. So things are significantly worse than in 1996, and new national systems such as the SCR will compound the problem. The next secretary of state needs to get his act together.