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Ash Soni: Focusing on data breaches in pharmacy is 'bit odd'

Ash Soni: Why are pharmacists scrutinised more than GP reception staff?
Ash Soni: Why are pharmacists scrutinised more than GP reception staff?

The former president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has questioned why pharmacists face greater scrutiny for data breaches than other health professionals.

C+D reported on a study last month by consultancy company Accenture which suggested that personal medical information is "most likely" to be stolen from pharmacies.

Responding to a question from C+D on data breaches, while at the Avicenna conference in Wales on April 30, Ash Soni said "patient confidentiality is something that plays against us on occasions, as [it's] seen as something of a threat".

"As the professional responsibility of pharmacists, it's no different to any other healthcare professional," said Mr Soni, who is chair of London's local professional network for pharmacy.

"We don't seem to worry about [data breaches] for [GP] reception staff, so it seems a bit odd that a regulated profession seems to be held to a greater level of account than maybe others who are unregulated,” he added.

NHS Digital: “We'll need to up our game”

Mohammed Hussain, NHS Digital’s programme head for integrated pharmacy, told the conference that "pharmacies work really hard to have good [data] governance".

However, once pharmacies are “all connected” then “we need to up our game in terms of being aware of cyber risks and cyber security”.

Even then, the risk of data breaches will be “very low”, because the NHS is a "closed network" and “very secure”.

Pharmacists should also be aware how tools such as Skype could open pharmacies up to new potential for data breaches, he said. "We [must] start thinking about what's visible to someone on Skype; what can they hear while I'm skyping someone else?"

"Data doesn't have to be encoded in a hard drive, it can be conversations. We have to think more broadly," he added.

NHS faces cyber attack

Last Friday (May 12), a number of NHS organisations in England and Scotland were affected by a global cyber attack.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said while "this attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS", pharmacies should be wary of suspicious emails and attachments.

GPs and GP pharmacists took to Twitter to report how the 'ransomware' attack was impacting their services.

Is your pharmacy prepared to fend off cyber crime? Get top tips in C+D's latest feature here

2 Comments
Question: 
Have you been affected by the NHS cyber attack?

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Don't switch on the computer - great plan! You couldn't make it up!

Z ZZzzzz, Information Technology

The latest cyber attack just shows how futile completing IG toolkits every year has become. There is supposed to be a plan B when normal service breaks down. Pathetic that most GP surgeries have a plan B that just tells patients to effectively go away. Glad I've now retired, and feel sorry for my former colleagues having to deal with the mess not made easier by the attitude of the Health Secretary and NHS Digital towards payment for cyber security. Whatever amount the Secretary or any spokesperson from NHSD tell us has been "provided", they were constantly warned by software and hardware providers at many NHS IT forums etc I attended it was never going to be enough.

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