Princess Kate hospital notes breach claims probed by privacy watchdog

LONDON — Britain’s data watchdog has launched an investigation after a report that staff members at the elite hospital where Kate, the Princess of Wales, underwent surgery had tried to access her medical records.

Kate, 42, has been the subject of worldwide intrigue and conspiracy theories after she underwent the unspecified abdominal procedure at the London Clinic, which is used by royals and celebrities, in January. For some, the mystery appeared to have been resolved this week after a video emerged of her and William, the Prince of Wales, out shopping near their home in Windsor.

But Tuesday, the British tabloid newspaper The Mirror reported that the clinic was investigating an allegation that at least one staff member tried to access her records while she was a patient at the world-renowned institution.

The Information Commissioner’s Office said in a statement Wednesday that it had "received a breach report" and was “assessing the information provided.”

The chief executive of the London Clinic, Al Russell, said in a statement Wednesday, “Everyone at The London Clinic is acutely aware of our individual, professional, ethical and legal duties with regards to patient confidentiality.”

Citing "recent media coverage," he added that the hospital, which also treated King Charles III, has “systems in place to monitor management of patient information and, in the case of any breach, all appropriate investigatory, regulatory and disciplinary steps will be taken. There is no place at our hospital for those who intentionally breach the trust of any of our patients or colleagues.”

Kensington Palace told the Reuters news agency it was "a matter for The London Clinic."

Britain's Catherine, Princess of Wales is admitted to hospital, in London  (Peter Cziborra / Reuters)
Britain's Catherine, Princess of Wales is admitted to hospital, in London (Peter Cziborra / Reuters)

British Health Minister Maria Caulfield called the allegations “pretty severe” and said it was “serious stuff to be accessing notes that you don’t have permission to.”

“From a health perspective, it’s not acceptable to be looking at people’s notes, but it has been spotted and action has been taken,” she said in an interview with Sky News.

Asked about the breach report received by the Information Commissioner’s Office, a spokesperson for London's Metropolitan police said: "We are not aware of any referral to the Metropolitan Police at this time."

It’s the latest twist in a royal saga that refuses to go away.

The palace announced in January that Kate would be taking more than two months off after having undergone unspecified abdominal surgery.

But she has become the subject of an entire ecosystem of speculation and conspiracy theories filling the void of details that she and William have sought to keep private about the situation.

Little information about Kate’s surgery or condition has been provided, while the infamously manipulated family photo that was called out by major news agencies sent the royal rumor mill into overdrive.

Some have decried the level of speculation, and even the interest and coverage itself, in this royal soap opera. But the story also speaks to fundamental tensions among the palace, the media and the public over transparency and accountability.

Britain’s conservative-dominated press has been largely sympathetic to the family. These newspapers have condemned the social media masses’ speculating about Kate’s health — while simultaneously stoking the story by giving it blanket coverage.

Chief among them is The Sun, a right-wing tabloid and one of the country’s best-selling newspapers, which this week published a video that it said showed Kate and William out shopping. The video was recorded by an engineer named Nelson Silva, who told the paper that his video should end the rumors about Kate’s whereabouts and condition.

“I’m not so much shocked that these comments have continued, I’m just confused how exactly they can continue,” he said of the conspiracy theories, in which some people had suggested that the person in the video was not Kate. “This is a video clearly showing her and William. I saw them with my own eyes. It was a completely relaxed situation.”

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