The Nursing and Midwifery Council has been fined £150,000 for breaching the Data Protection Act.

The case is the first time a professional body has been fined by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The council lost three DVDs related to a nurse’s misconduct hearing, which contained confidential personal information and evidence from two vulnerable children.

The council had been couriering evidence relating to a ‘fitness to practise’ case to the hearing venue when the discs disappeared and were never recovered.

An ICO investigation found the information was not encrypted.

David Smith, ICO director of data protection, said the council had no policy on how the discs should be handled, and so no thought was given as to whether they should be encrypted before being couriered.

“Had that simple step been taken, the information would have remained secure and we would not have had to issue this penalty,” he said.

The ICO said the case highlighted the need for organisations to review their policies on how personal data was handled.

Smith said the ICO was seeing cases of personal data being mishandled “again and again”.

“While many organisations are aware of the need to keep sensitive paper records secure, they forget that personal data comes in many forms, including audio and video images, all of which must be adequately protected,” he said.

“I would urge organisations to take the time today to check their policy on how personal information is handled. Is the policy robust? Does it cover audio and video files containing personal information? And is it being followed in every case?

“If the answer to any of those questions is no, then the organisation risks a data breach that damages public trust and a possible weighty monetary penalty.”