A former GP surgery manager in Maidstone has been prosecuted by the Information Commissioner after illegally accessing approximately 1,940 patients’ medical records.

Steven Tennison, 37, pleaded guilty on 3 December at Maidstone Magistrates Court to charges of unlawfully obtaining personal data.

He was fined £996 and ordered to pay a £99 victim surcharge and £250 prosecution costs.

The offences were uncovered in October 2010 when the practice manager at College Practice surgery was asked to review Mr Tennison’s attendance file. The review included a check of Mr Tennison’s use of the patient records program, which showed that between August 2009 and October 2010 he accessed patients’ records on 2,023 occasions.

The majority of the records viewed related to women in their 20s and 30s. The record of one woman – believed to be a school friend of Mr Tennison – was accessed repeatedly, along with that of her son.

Mr Tennison was fired shortly after his illegal actions were discovered.

HSJ asked the ICO why three years had elapsed between Mr Tennison being caught and the case reaching court.

A spokesman said: “The prosecution of Steven Tennison took so long due to the fact that he was uncooperative throughout: failing to reply to letters, not being available when visits were made to his address and failing to attend the original hearing date on 13 June 2013.

“After the original hearing a warrant was issued for his arrest and he was picked up by the police on 5 November 2013. The case was then adjourned until 3 December, when he was successfully prosecuted.”

ICO head of enforcement Stephen Eckersley said: “We may never know why Steven Tennison decided to break the law by snooping on hundreds of patients’ medical records. What we do know is that he’d received data training and knew he was breaking the law, but continued to access highly sensitive information over a 14 month period.

“The GPs and staff at College Practice GP surgery work hard to maintain the confidentiality of their patients’ records. The irresponsible actions of one employee have undermined their work and he is now facing the consequences of his unlawful actions.”