‘The appropriate thing for Patricia Hewitt to do, would be to resign now,’ said furious junior doctors yesterday after their personal details were made available to the world on the internet.
What the Department of Health (DOH) claimed was an apparent security lapse, allowed details including phone numbers, addresses, previous convictions and sexual orientation to be accessed online.
These details from the NHS Medical Training Application Service (MTAS) website were publicly available from 9am Wednesday. The DoH was alerted at 4.35pm and the breach finally closed at 5.05pm.
The DoH issued an apology saying the details were ‘made available to a strictly limited number of people making checks as part of the employment process’ and ‘was only accessible for only a short period of time’ after they were leaked.
Junior doctor Mr Matthew Shaw from the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, told News Line: ‘The health secretary has been telling us how good the MTAS system is.
‘She refused to apologise. When she did, she told MPs the system is working and then we have this disgraceful shambles – Hewitt should resign now.’
Junior doctor Matt Jameson Evans added: ‘This is just another chapter in a whole litany of disasters from beginning to end.
‘We now have 7,000 doctors’ personal details floating around on the internet freely available for data thieves.
‘We need a minister to step up and take some responsibility for this shambolic implementation which has caused so much distress to so many individuals.
‘A dignified resignation might just restore some sort of credibility to a process which has lost any confidence of the profession.’
Asked if the British Medical Association (BMA) backed the call for Hewitt to resign now, a BMA spokesman told News Line: ‘Our junior doctors’ conference on Saturday has several motions calling for her resignation.
‘Until delegates pass them it is not BMA policy. They may well do, though.’
Dr Jo Hilborne, chairman of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, said: ‘What little faith anyone had left in this shambolic system has just evaporated.
‘It is a breach of security on an appalling scale. The ease with which anyone could have accessed highly sensitive information about thousands of people is frankly shocking.
‘The BMA has raised concerns about the security of the MTAS website on more than one occasion. The Department of Health had months to put it right and failed. There can be no excuse for this.’
Emily Rigby, chair of the BMA Medical Students Committee, added: ‘We’re incredibly concerned about the extent of the breach and the surrounding security issues.’
She said: ‘What has happened is appalling and it’s inexcusable. The breach has led to many students questioning the validity of the system.’