Closethorntonbanner
Close Thornton

NHS accused of covering up huge data loss that put thousands at risk

NHS accused of covering up huge data loss that put thousands at risk

An investigation has found that more than 1,700 people may have been harmed by an NHS contractor’s loss of almost 709,000 pieces of medical correspondence, including patient records and cancer test results. The lost documents also included treatment plans, details of changes to patient drug regimes, child protection notes and the results of many kinds of diagnostic tests.

But the real total of patients harmed could be much higher, as almost a third of the documents have still to be assessed to see if the long delays in analysing them could have damaged patient health.

Efforts to analyse the missing correspondence and to finally deliver it to the relevant GPs have so far cost £6.6m. But the final bill could be much higher if the Information Commissioner’s Office decides to fine the NHS bodies involved and, especially, if patients have to be paid compensation.

The National Audit Office (NAO) launched it's inquiry into the unprecedented loss of such a huge amount of sensitive and medically important correspondence after the Guardian newspaper revealed in February that it had occurred. The NAO report catalogues a litany of errors made over a number of years by NHS Shared Business Services (SBS), a private firm jointly owned by the Department of Health, that delivered letters between hospitals and GP practices and also between GP surgeries.

Moreover the NAO found that SBS had become aware of a risk to patients in January 2014, but that senior managers had not developed a plan to deal with it and had failed to inform either the government or NHS England for another two years.

At the time of writing over 200,000 records have yet to undergo initial review by GPs to determine if there was any potential for harm to have happened. Individual investigations are taking place into the 1,788 cases of potential harm so far identified by GPs among the records that have already been through the initial review process.

Although no cases of harm directly attributable to the blunders have been confirmed to date it will not be known exactly how many patients did suffer harm until the end of this year.

For further information and advice about pursuing a claim for clinical negligence please contact Senior Partner Shaun Burke on 01325 466461 or email shaun.burke@close-thornton.co.uk

Close Thornton