A private contractor for the NHS mislaid 708,000 pieces of confidential medical data, including cancer screenings and test results, according to the Guardian.
From 2011 – 2016 over half a million pieces of patient data, sent between GPs and hospitals were misplaced in a warehouse by the private company NHS Shared Business Service (NHS SBS).
NHS England has launched an enquiry into the incident to find out how many patients have been affected. It’s estimated that 2,500 patients require further investigation to discover if they are at risk or need further medical checks.
NHS England is also looking into any patients who have died since the loss of documents, to examine whether the lack of data affected patients’ health.
The Guardian reported that the lost material has now been returned to 7,700 GP surgeries.
According to the British Medical Association (BMA), patients might have had the diagnosis of their illness delayed, and could have taken unnecessary drugs due to the misplaced medical data.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth spoke of his disdain for both the incident and the handling of the incident by secretary of state for health, Jeremy Hunt. He said: “This is an absolute scandal. For a company partly owned by the Department of Health and a private company to fail to deliver half a million NHS letters, many of which contain information critical to patient care, is astonishing.
“Patient safety will have been put seriously at risk as a result of this staggering incompetence. The news is heartbreaking for the families involved and it will be scarcely believable for these hospitals and GPs who are doing their best to deliver services despite the neglect of the government.”
Ashworth went on to regard Hunt’s statement to MPs last July as being “perfunctory, complacent and evasive failing to reveal any of the catastrophic detail of how 500,000 pieces of correspondence including test and screening results and pathways following hospital treatment, had failed to be delivered and were in fact languishing unopened in a warehouse”
An NHS spokesperson said: “A team including clinical experts has reviewed that old correspondence and it has now all been delivered wherever possible to the correct practice.”