Patient wins damages after NHS data leak

Posted: 13th July 2012

The claimant was awarded £18,633 damages after his former partner, a healthcare assistant, accessed confidential personal information about him while working at a hospital.

He realised what she had done when she challenged him about his mental health difficulties, which she could not otherwise have known about.

The claimant sought damages from the NHS Trust which manages the hospital, arguing that it was vicariously liable for the unauthorised disclosure of his personal medical information. The claim was made under Section 13 of the Data Protection Act 1998.

He argued that the accessing of the private information worsened his pre-existing mental health problems and resulted in a loss of earnings.

Hospital sign

A county court awarded him £18,633 in damages for the exacerbation of his mental health problems, to cover the cost of future treatment and to compensate him for his financial loss.

But the judge refused to allow him to make a claim for exemplary damages and dismissed his claim for aggravated damages.

The claimant challenged those decisions at the Court of Appeal, saying that the way in which the NHS Trust had conducted the litigation justified awards of aggravated and exemplary damages.

He argued that he had been denied his right to a fair hearing under Article Six of the European Convention on Human Rights and that the sum of damages he was awarded would be an insufficient deterrent to the Trust.

In refusing to grant the claimant permission to appeal, Lord Justice Longmore said that he understood his grievances but awards of exemplary or aggravated damages would not have been appropriate on the facts of the case.