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Postal data breaches

The HSE sends out hundreds of letters and appointments by post every day.

Administrative errors in issuing letters and appointments by post are the most common type of data breach in the HSE.

Postal data breaches occur in a very small number of letters issued by the HSE, but they can be upsetting for individuals when they occur.

Postal breaches most commonly occur when:

  • using incorrect addresses
  • using old addresses
  • mistakenly including more than 1 letter or appointment in the same envelope
  • document relating to another person mistakenly attached to a letter
  • envelope not sealed securely

A breach like this can be stressful and upsetting, especially if neighbours or family members receive a person's confidential data.

Avoiding postal data breaches

To avoid errors, you should:

  • be alert
  • use a 3-point check for patients' addresses:
    • check the patient's address is correct when drafting the letter
    • check again after printing
    • do a final check before it goes into the envelope
  • use windowed envelopes (ensure no sensitive information can be seen through the window)
  • make sure the envelope contains only the individual's information (double-check the front and back of each letter)
  • check that 'private and confidential' is on the envelope

If you're in doubt or know a data breach occurred

Watch this short video to avoid data breaches when sending letters or appointments.

If you’re in doubt, or know there has been a data breach, ask for help from your line manager and your local Deputy Data Protection Officer

Find out more about data breaches