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November 14, 2014

Pharmacist fined for peeking at family health records

Harkanwarjit Dhanju used security pass obtained to check on mental health medicine.

By Jimmy Nicholls

A pharmacist was fined £1,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after he unlawfully accessed the health records of family, colleagues and other local health workers.

In addition to the fine, Harkanwarjit Dhanju will pay a £100 victim surcharge and £608.30 prosecution costs for crimes he committed while working as a sessional pharmacist for the South West Essex Primary Care Trust.

Stephen Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO said: "There is no justifiable reason why Dhanju needed to spy on the medical treatment of all of these people. He knew he was committing a criminal offence but he decided to carry on regardless."

During a routine audit the surgery manager at Tile House Surgery in Brentwood, Essex discovered that the pharmacist was using his security pass to access records outside of his remit, which included residential care homes for the mentally ill.

Illegally obtaining personal data can lead to a fine of £5,000 in a magistrates court or an unlimited fine in a crown court, though the ICO director Christopher Graham recently called for prison sentences to be an option "for the most serious cases".

"The public will be rightly concerned that a medical professional in a position of trust decided to act in this way," Eckersley added.

"We hope today’s prosecution sends a clear message to anyone who may be tempted to do likewise, that unlawfully accessing people’s medical records is a criminal offence and will result with you being rewarded with a day in court."

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