Hospital security concerns raised after break-ins

CONCERNS have been raised over the state of security at a hospital in north Wiltshire after a computer and recording equipment was stolen.

Police are appealing for information after a window was smashed and a computer and two Dictaphones were stolen in three separate incidents at Chippenham Community Hospital in Rowden Hill in the space of a week.

Although the computer equipment is not believed to have held private patient information, the break-ins have called in to question the security of the site, which could have resulted in mayhem if confidential patient information had been stolen and fallen into the hands of identity fraudsters.

Thieves are believed to have twice broken in to the secretary's office overnight on November 23 and 24.

Intruders then stole two Dictaphones and a computer, which was used as a terminal to connect remotely to IT systems at the Royal United Hospital in Bath.

Another incident occurred overnight on Saturday when a brick was thrown through the window of the porter's lodge.

A member of staff was inside the lodge at the time but no one was injured.

Police have launched an investigation into the break-ins.

Sgt Steve Cox of Chippenham police said: "This offence is serious as the hospital is there to serve members of the community.

"Any computer stolen may contain vital information that when lost could have serious implications.

"In addition, staff at the hospital have to be taken away from their front line duties to deal with these incidents."

A spokesman for Wiltshire PCT said: "As a result of these incidents the PCT is investigating the potential to expand the CCTV system which already covers part of the site."

In September, the Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, pledged to invest Ł97m into NHS hospital security.

The costs of installing CCTV systems at the community hospital would cost around Ł30,000, according to experts at CDA Solutions, a CCTV development and installations business based in Chippenham.

Graham Jones, a sales manager for the Wiltshire branch of CDA Solutions, said: "I would have to get a survey to get an accurate quote but we have done a number of hospitals in the past and with a full system for a site of that size, with 30 cameras, you would be looking at around Ł20,000 to Ł30,000.

"They are different cameras to the ones in towns. They are static cameras and you don't need to have people driving them."

Chippenham town councillors have expressed their support for plans to improve security at the hospital.

Cllr Andrew Noblet, leader of Chippenham Town Council, said: "If CCTV is an answer then it is a way forward I think because it is important that people feel safe when they go to hospital.

"It is another expense but patient records are important and they should be secure.

"It has always been a problem in hospitals with people wandering in and causing trouble.

Town councillor Marian Stickland expressed her concerns over the costs of CCTV.

She said: "CCTV would be the answer but who is going to fund it? It is quite expensive but it helps in the town a great deal to cut down crime, but when it is isolated, as it is at the hospital, I don't know whether it would be that much good."