A couple, who bought second-hand office furniture on eBay, discovered records relating to psychiatric patients from a former NHS Trust administrative body in a filing cabinet, in what is seen as an extremely rare case of a physical data breach.
Amy Shotton, 24 and her boyfriend Nick Helliwell, 32 in Halifax saw an auction for 11 office filing cabinets and seven chairs on eBay. They won the auction and paid £51 ($70), but when they received the office furniture, they received an unpleasant surprise – one of the cabinets still contained patients' private records.
The furniture had previously belonged to the former Wolverhampton City NHS Primary Care Trust, which closed down in April 2013. This followed the introduction of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, which got rid of all Primary Care Trusts and transferred their responsibilities to 211 new clinical commissioning groups.
The cabinet in question contained 60 pages of documents that included in-depth details of patients' histories of sexual abuse as well as suicide attempts.
"There were staggering details of intimate medical histories," Shotton told newspaper the Express and Star.
Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which now has jurisdiction over the area, says it is now investigating the issue.
"The Trust can confirm that it has been informed about a possible breach of patient confidentiality. The facts of the case are not yet clear. We are carrying out a full investigation, in conjunction with our partner organisations, City of Wolverhampton Council and Wolverhampton Clinical Commissioning Group, to understand how this happened," a spokesperson for the Trust said in a statement.
"We take patient confidentiality very seriously and apologise for any distress this has caused."