Police 'looking at' allegations hospital staff 'tried to access Princess of Wales' medical files', minister tells LBC

20 March 2024, 08:26 | Updated: 20 March 2024, 10:07

Hospital staff 'attempted to view' Princess of Wales' private medical records following abdominal surgery
Hospital staff 'attempted to view' Princess of Wales' private medical records following abdominal surgery. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Police have been asked to 'look at' allegations that hospital staff tried to hack into the Princess of Wales' medical records after her abdominal surgery, a minister told LBC this morning.

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Health minister Maria Caulfield told Nick Ferrari on LBC this morning: "I say this as someone who's still on the nursing register, that the rules are very, very clear for all patients.

"That unless you're looking after that patient, or unless they've given you their consent, you should not be looking at patients' notes.

"So there are rules in place and the Information Commissioner can levy fines, that can be prosecutions, your regulator, so as a nurse my regulator would be the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council), can take enforcement action."

Asked if the police should look into the matter, she said: "My understanding is that police have been asked to look at it - whether they take action is a matter for them.

"But the Information Commissioner can also take prosecutions, can also issue fines, the NMC, other health regulators can strike you off the register if the breach is serious enough.

"So there are particularly hefty implications if you are looking at notes for medical records that you should not be looking at."

However the Met police said in a statement: "We are not aware of any referral to the Metropolitan Police at this time."

Bosses at the London Clinic launched an urgent investigation after it was claimed at least one staff member attempted to access her medical records after her abdominal surgery in January.

The clinic’s management has refused to disclose whether staff in question are still working there. The prestigious clinic has also refused to answer when it was first made aware of the alleged violation or if the staff responsible had been suspended.

A spokesperson for Kensington Palace said: “This is a matter for the London Clinic.”

It is a criminal offence for staff in any NHS or private healthcare setting to access the medical records of a patient without the consent of the medical provider's data controller. 

The Met Police have said it is unable to comment without knowing if the clinic had reported the incident to the force.

The London Clinic's staff were said to be distraught by the attempt by their colleagues to view Kate's personal records.

At least one staff member was involved, with a probe over the confidentiality breach being launched in January, according to the Mirror.

The exclusive hospital in Marylebone, central London, is frequently used by the royals as well as other high-profile individuals, politicians, and celebrities.

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Catherine, Princess of Wales pictured during a visit to Southampton
Catherine, Princess of Wales pictured during a visit to Southampton. Picture: Alamy

“This is a major security breach and incredibly damaging for the hospital, given its unblemished reputation for treating members of the Royal Family," a source told the paper.

Hospital chiefs contacted the Palace over the incident, and assured they would launch a full investigation, the insider said.

"The whole medical staff have been left utterly shocked and distraught over the allegations and were very hurt that a trusted colleague could have allegedly been responsible for such a breach of trust and ethics," they added.

It is a criminal offence for medical staff to access private medical records without the consent of a patient or data controller.

The paper said the Met Police did not confirm if they were involved in the probe, or if they had launched an official investigation.

Despite refusing to comment on the allegation, the London Clinic said their patients deserve "total privacy and confidentiality" - "no matter their status".

Police officers stand outside an entrance to The London Clinic in London, January 26, 2024
Police officers stand outside an entrance to The London Clinic in London, January 26, 2024. Picture: Alamy

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It comes after the Princess of Wales was filmed smiling alongside her husband during a visit to a farm shop in Windsor.

Kate's recovery from surgery appears to have progressed after footage obtained by The Sun showed her and William at the local business on Saturday.

In the video the princess can be seen with her hair down, wearing a black jacket and leggings, chatting with William and carrying a large white bag.

The Windsor Farm Shop is a short drive from their Adelaide Cottage home in the grounds of Windsor Castle. People flock to the shop, which was the idea of the late Duke of Edinburgh, to buy locally sourced goods and produce from the royal estates.

Kate's absence from public life, following abdominal surgery on January 16, has led to wild conspiracy theories on social media about her whereabouts and health.

Details of her condition have not been disclosed but Kensington Palace previously said it was not cancer-related and that Kate wished her personal medical information to remain private.

The online speculation increased after irregularities were spotted in a Mother's Day photograph of Kate and her children, which led to the princess admitting to "editing" the image and apologising for any "confusion" caused.

The future Queen has been photographed in public twice since her operation. In a picture published on March 4, she was a front-seat passenger in a car driven by her mother, Carole Middleton, in the Windsor area.

She was also spotted sitting next to William in a chauffeur-driven car last Monday, when he attended the Commonwealth Day service in London and she was driven to a private appointment.