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Patients’ medical records go missing

UP to 70 sets of patients’ notes are going missing at Staffordshire’s biggest hospital every day, it has emerged.

The shock findings come despite a new £60,000 digital system brought in to store them more safely.

Bosses at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire admit that at any one time between 40 and 70 of the medical records end up at the wrong location because of staff errors.

And if they cannot be tracked down and retrieved fast enough, patients may have appointments cancelled.

Now a new electronic system is to be brought in to wipe out the blunders.

Officials say the documents are being ‘misplaced temporarily’ with only a handful of them being lost completely, and have stressed that the number is only a tiny proportion of the 800,000 sets of notes kept on the site.

They disappear between the trust’s health records department in its Sutherland Library site and the wards and departments requesting them when treating patients.

It happens when staff fail to enter in a new log that they have sent them to a different place.

A hospital spokesman said the incidence of misplaced records has dropped since the digital storage system came in two years ago.

“Just 0.005 percent of the total 800,000 records are temporarily misplaced at any one time within the organisation,” he said.

“This is as a result of having a paper-based records system and human error when records are entered on to the system but not delivered.

“We take our responsibility for patient confidentiality extremely seriously.

“And so the long-term aim is to address this through a two-year project to move to electronic health records and removal of paper based records.”

Under the so-called Filefast system introduced in July 2011, all files were bar-coded with a digital log created of where the files are stored.

The trust says some become misplaced when staff track them in and out of the system incorrectly.

They are often found in medical secretaries’ offices after staff had logged them as being sent back to health records but had failed to do so.

The spokesman said: “The Filefast system improved efficiency and productivity within the records department.

“It is a huge improvement on the previous paper logging system and has reduced the number of records misplaced within the organisation.”

Hilda Johnson, a member of Newcastle Council Health Scrutiny Committee, said: “In such a large organisation it will be inevitable some records will be misplaced but one wonders if this is behind a lot of the appointments that get cancelled and re-scheduled by the hospital. Or is it causing patients to end up with the wrong medication or other treatment?”

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