A special investigation of data protection practices at 20 hospitals across the State has identified a catalogue of concerns - including sensitive patient records being left exposed in wards, and a lack of privacy when staff are speaking to patients.

The investigation was carried out by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner at hospitals across the country – including University Hospital Galway and Sligo University Hospital.

It found evidence that computer terminals were being left unattended for long periods, leaving patient data visible, and that sensitive records were not being disposed of securely.

Hospitals are being urged to use this report as a tool to enable them to spot the significant data processing security risks that may feature at their facilities on a daily basis.

The investigation was carried out last year and examined practices in 20 HSE facilities, voluntary hospitals and private facilities – although the report does not outline specific issues at individual hospitals.

The report sets out 76 recommendations aimed at mitigating the risks identified.

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