The Royal College of Nursing has appointed a cybersecurity firm to launch an ‘urgent investigation’ into a potential breach of its members’ data within a recent petition against the college.
It had emerged that the names and personal information of some RCN members added to what has recently been deemed a ‘fraudulent’ petition, that sought a vote of no confidence against the college, without their knowledge or consent.
Independent company Dionach has this week begun contacting members thought to be affected, asking them to verify whether or not they had signed the petition, which was launched following the latest pay offer for NHS staff in England and also called for an extraordinary general meeting.
Ken Spearpoint, a principal lecturer, is one of those impacted and told Nursing in Practice he had been ‘disturbed’ and ‘profoundly offended’ when he learned his name had been used on the petition without his permission.
‘It would appear that GDPR has been breached; furthermore, as a form of identity theft and cybercrime, this could also represent an infringement of my rights to privacy,’ he added.
However, Mr Spearpoint said he felt ‘very reassured that the RCN has taken the matter very seriously’ and hoped the investigation would help identify those responsible and apply ‘both professional and legal accountability’.
Meanwhile, an RCN spokesperson said: ‘The data of all of our members is of vital importance and that is why we launched an urgent investigation following concerns coming to light during the recent petition verification process.
‘An external company, Dionach, has been appointed by the RCN to carry out an investigation into those concerns and the outcome of that investigation will determine our next steps.’
The spokesperson also sought to address the concerns of some members that the Dionach email could be spam, saying: ‘If you receive an email, please be assured it is genuinely on our behalf and you can contribute if you wish to.’
It is also understood that Dionach is asking RCN members whose names appeared on a similar petition launched in 2020 – calling for a review into the way the RCN is governed – to confirm if they had signed that as well.