National health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse admits sitting on private COVID-19 details 'looks odd'

National's health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse admits sitting on a leak of private COVID-19 details after slamming the leak as "unconscionable", "looks odd on reflection".

On Saturday, several media outlets received private and confidential details of COVID-19 patients. An inquiry into where the leak had come from was launched by the Government, which promised to leave no stone unturned.

The National Party was outraged at the leak, blasting it as incompetence from the Government. In a statement, Woodhouse said it was "unconscionable and unacceptable that those suffering from the incredibly dangerous virus now have to suffer further with their private details being leaked".

It was then revealed the leak had come from The National Party - and Woodhouse later admitted to receiving similar information. 

On Tuesday now-former Southland-Clutha MP Hamish Walker admitted to disclosing the patient details to media outlets - later in the week former National Party president Michelle Boag revealed she had given them to Walker.

It was then revealed Boag had sent four emails containing similar details to Woodhouse - who did not disclose he had received them, despite publicly slamming the leak as "unacceptable".

Speaking to Ryan Bridge on Magic Talk, Woodhouse admitted he knew immediately the information in the emails was inappropriate - but he didn't tell anyone about it.

He says his statement about the "unconscionable" leak does look like "an odd choice". 

"It does look odd on reflection but bear in mind I did think that information was widely available and it never in my wildest dreams thought it could have come from a colleague," he said.

He says it was his belief the information in the emails he received was being widely circulated through the Government agencies responsible for the COVID-19 response. 

While acknowledging he knew the information was inappropriate, Woodhouse says he had no idea it was the same as what Walker had been sent.

"I had no knowledge the source was the same [as Walker's leak] or that it went to a colleague [Walker]."

He says although he did not take the leak to the Privacy Commissioner he treated it seriously by not doing anything about it and by deleting the information. 

He said in hindsight, if the situation was to occur again he would act differently.

"I would certainly in hindsight alert the leadership team - whether the Privacy Commissioner should be involved is another question."

Health Minister Chris Hipkins appointed Michael Heron QC earlier this week to lead an investigation into the leaked information - a scandal Hipkins described as having a "ring of dirty politics" to it.

"It is clear that over the course of the last week The National Party has had a lot of information that they have chosen not to share that could have cleared things up much more quickly," Hipkins said.