NHS data loss scandal reached new heights as NHS England CEO Simon Stevens revealed that further investigation has found another 162,000 “lost” patient documents, in addition to the previously discovered 700,000 documents, of which more than 500,000 included sensitive patient data.
It came to light earlier this year that NHS England had launched a probe into a series of missing documents, which found that a total of 708,000 patient letters went undelivered.
Around 200,000 of them were temporary resident forms and therefore not clinical documents, but the remaining 500,000 documents included information such as “copies of test or screening results, and communications about planned next steps in treatment following appointments with other healthcare providers”.
Between 2001 and 2016, the letters were mistakenly put into a warehouse run by the NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) – a joint venture between the Department of Health and Sopra Steria – rather than delivered to their intended recipients.
During a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing on 16 October, Stevensrevealed that the number of patient letters that were put into storage, rather than delivered to their intended recipients, was significantly higher than first thought.
Stevens said that following the discovery of the original 700,000 documents, further investigation into the lost correspondence found another 12,000 missing items that had not been processed by NHS SBS, as well as 150,000 medical documents that had been sent to Capita by mistake.
The original investigation found 5,562 documents which needed further clinical investigation. NHS England said a review of 97% of those has so far found no clinical harm to patients as a result of the data going astray. However, the new documents now need to go through the same process.
“We think there are probably about 150,000 items or so that require repatriation back to GPs and we aim to do that by the end of December. The situation hasn’t changed, but we have become very rigorous in making sure we’re lifting every stone, and that’s what we’ve identified,” Stevens said.
He added that the review of the newly found documents would hopefully be completed “by the end of March”, but with the caveat that it depended on “the volume of responses we get back from GPs”.