Research conducted by privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch has revealed how medical information is lost and shared on Facebook, and how NHS staff look at each other’s medical records.

Between July 2008 and July 2011 there were at least 806 separate incidents where patient medical records were lost, according to Freedom of Information Act requests.

The research showed a number of incidents in the NHS where patient medical records were accessed inappropriately. In 23 cases patient information was posted on social networking sites, and in 91 NHS staff looked up information about colleagues.

Confidential information was stolen, lost or left behind by staff at 24 trusts, and 44 trusts failed to respond to the Freedom of Information request. In addition, 55 trusts refused to release all or some if the information requested.

Big Brother Watch director Nick Pickles said that, as many people have access to private patient information, urgent action is needed to ensure that medical records are safe.

"It is essential the NHS is transparent about these incidents, and failing or refusing to disclose that a data breach has taken place is unacceptable," Pickles added.

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