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Home Medway News Article
Confidential patient documents, including records of a teenager's suicide attempt, have been discovered on a pavement in Medway.
The harrowing reports by paramedics after 999 calls were found strewn across the street in Chatham by passer-by Nicola Barrett.
Paperwork also included details of a man's distress at his wife's sudden death and an elderly woman's photo - along with her address and how to contact her next of kin.
Shocked Ms Barrett said: "They talk so much about fraud and other things – what if these papers had got into the wrong hands?"
South East Coast Ambulance Service has launched an investigation and said it will "investigate thoroughly".
Ms Barrett, from Gillingham, was stunned to discover papers blowing around in the wind in Chatham Hill were confidential patient documents.
The documents included one with the name, address and contact details for a teenager who had tried to take her own life.
It said: "Pt. [patient] self harm cutting and OD [overdosed]. Pt took approx 7 paracetamol and 12 Ibruprofen at approx 19.30 with water. Pt. has drunk one can of cider.
"Whilst support worker on phone pt cut herself using a razor blade multiple times on her left arm. Pt intended to end her life tonight."
Details of a woman who was found dead in her bed were also found.
The document said: "Husband is crying and obviously distressed. No obvious signs of foul play."
A third patient record was that of an elderly woman whose photograph was attached.
"I was flabbergasted more than anything to see it was blowing around... these are private details that should be looked after better and shredded..." - Nicola Barrett
It included her address, her next of kin's contact details and her medication record from a day care centre.
The bundle of papers, which were found on Sunday morning, have now been returned to the ambulance service.
Ms Barrett, of Imperial Road, said: "People were just walking over it all and ignoring it, but when I looked down I saw what it was.
"I was so shocked. I started collecting as much of it as I could, but I think some pieces had blown over the other side of the road.
"I didn't look through the papers, but as I was picking them up I saw it contained personal details of people like their phone numbers, addresses and even a photograph of an elderly woman.
"I was flabbergasted more than anything to see it was blowing around. People could break into their homes. These are private details that should be looked after better and shredded."
The South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) has launched an investigation.
A trust spokesman said: "SECAmb takes patient confidentiality very seriously.
"We safely handle data relating to well in excess of 500,000 999 calls every year and any breaches are extremely rare. We believe this to be an isolated and unusual occurrence which we will investigate thoroughly.
"I think there has to be some sincere apologies to the individual people affected and they must be contacted and have a full explanation about how and why this has happened..." - Big Brother Watch's Emma Carr
"In addition we are currently in the process of looking into the introduction of an electronic version of these patient forms."
Britain's leading privacy and civil liberties campaign group is calling for answers after the confidential paperwork was discovered.
Big Brother Watch deputy director Emma Carr said: "I think the fact it was not just one document relating to a single person tells you that a serious data breach occurred here and South East Coast Ambulance Service has some serious questions to answer.
"If that was me, I would be incredibly annoyed with the ambulance service for improperly disclosing these documents.
"They are very sensitive issues, especially if someone has tried to take their life - they are clearly not in a state to hear this sort of news.
"I think there has to be some sincere apologies to the individual people affected and they must be contacted and have a full explanation about how and why this has happened and what the South East Coast Ambulance Service is doing to correct that.
"There also has to be some form of internal training to ensure that whoever has committed this data breach never does it again.
"The Information Commissioner's office should be contacted as well so there can be an external investigation to see whether the system should be changed."
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