Published: 05/09/2002, Volume II2, No. 5812 Page 7

An acute trust has launched a hunt to find an employee who is hacking into e-mails and leaking confidential information about hospital blunders to the national press.

University Hospitals of Leicester trust has been under the media spotlight since the details of four separate, but unrelated, incidents during the last three months were published in the Daily Mail and Daily Express.

The trust has stressed that each incident was reported at the time they happened and that full apologies were made to those concerned in each case.

Senior managers believe a temporary member of staff is accessing this highly sensitive information.

The most recent leak revealed that unsterilised equipment had been used to remove the tonsils of three patients at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

The patients now face a sixmonth wait for the results of HIV and hepatitis C tests.

At the same hospital, a stillborn baby was left for 36 hours instead of being taken to the mortuary. The body of an elderly man remained on a ward for 15 hours because of delays in getting a signature for the death certificate.

At Glenfield Hospital - also run by the trust - unsterilised telescopic equipment was used to look down the throats of two patients. The first patient has been found to be HIV positive.

A spokesperson for the trust said: 'The trust has no objection to whistle-blowing - provided it is done in the proper way, through internal channels.

'Our disclosure policy encourages people to come forward if they are anxious or unhappy about something - but not to leak information externally from confidential e-mails.'

The trust said it was also seeking police advice to determine whether a criminal offence had been committed.