Medical Records Go Missing, Are Lost or Misplaced

Article excerpt

Byline: By ROB PATTINSON

PRIVATE medical records blunders have seen patients put at potential risk, a probe reveals today.

Cases of mislaid doctors' notes, lost patient files, and child protection reports going missing have been recorded over the last three years.

Now data bosses have warned the failure to keep information safe could lead to records falling into the "wrong hands".

In one case an 'at-risk' baby and its foster parents were put in danger by a blunder.

Their address in Chester-le-Street was passed on to the infant's violent dad by mistake - one of dozens of patient data errors uncovered by the Chronicle.

In 2005 a faulty fax meant confidential patient details were sent by a Durham nurse to Nissan instead of social services.

While in Northumberland, the identity of 32 vulnerable clients was put at risk when a CD containing their details was lost by the Royal Mail, last year.

The disk was from the Joint Equipment and Loan service, which provides home equipment such as hoists for patients at home. It contained no clinical data but as a result of the loss all disks have now been encrypted to protect confidentiality.

In Newcastle a set of notes, informing a GP of a patient's progress was lost in the NHS courier post. An NHS employee also spotted a sealed letter, containing details of a patient's treatment being dropped from a bag.

Database problems, in Newcastle, also meant a day's worth of health information was corrupted and lost. The information was re-inputted, and an IT solution was developed to stop the problem recurring.

Last year, in Gateshead, health visiting records, usually kept in a lockable filing cabinet, were found to be missing. And a mum was unable to add her baby's health notes to her own because NHS employees were unable to locate it.

The Information Commissioner's Office said: "Organisations which process personal information must ensure its records are kept securely."

They added: "Failure to adequately do so when there is sensitive personal information, such as health records, could lead to data falling into the wrong hands, and ultimately a loss of people's trust. …