Names and email addresses of patients released in "error" by leading HIV clinic

By Drum Digital
02 September 2015

The 56 Dean Street clinic, Europe’s busiest sexual health centre in central London is involved in what is considered “a major breach of personal data”.

The 56 Dean Street clinic, Europe’s busiest sexual health centre in central London is involved in what is considered “a major breach of personal data” after it emailed around 780 HIV-positive patients, failing to hide their email addresses.

In sending out its monthly e-newsletter which contains the latest information about HIV services and treatment, the clinic is reported to have “accidentally released” its full list of recipients. According to Buzzfeed News, the “accident” revealed that the recipients in the address bar are HIV-positive.

One patient told BuzzFeed News: “I was outraged. I thought it was disgusting that I was seeing a massive list of their patients. It’s not difficult to deduce the HIV status of every single one of those people. So I have their full names, their email address. I could easily put any of those details into Facebook and bring up pictures and personal details.”

Another patient said, “There were people on there I recognised. It made me uncomfortable for them and for myself that I’m finding out information that they may not have wanted me to know.”

To make matters worse, out-dated patient details were included in the email.

“There were people in there who I know to be dead because they were friends of mine,” the patient further said.

Mark Purcell, spokesperson for the Chelsea and Westminster hospital which controls 56 Dean Street told BuzzFeed that the email was sent in error and the clinic is looking into it. “The clinical director has apologised personally to each and every one of the people concerned,” Purcell said.

The clinic then sent an email trying to recall the original one, alerting patients to the mistake, before sending a further email apologising.

In a statement, the Chelsea and Westminster hospital said: “We can confirm that due to an administrative error, a newsletter about services at 56 Dean Street was sent to an email group rather than individual recipients. We have immediately contacted all the email recipients to inform them of the error and apologise.”

Some of the patients said they are yet to receive the apology.

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