Exclusive: More than 500,000 pieces of patient data between GPs and hospitals went undelivered between 2011 and 2016
Thousands of patients are feared to have been harmed after the NHS lost more than half a million pieces of confidential medical correspondence, including test results and treatment plans.
In one of the biggest losses of sensitive clinical information in the NHS’s 69-year history, more than 500,000 pieces of patient data sent between GP’s and hospitals went undelivered over the five years from 2011 to 2016.
The mislaid documents, which range from screening results to blood tests to diagnoses, failed to reach their intended recipients because the company meant to ensure their delivery mistakenly stored them in a warehouse.
NHS England has quietly launched an inquiry to discover how many patients have been affected. So far 2,500 cases that require further investigation to discover potential for harm have been identified. The NHS is spending millions of pounds paying doctors to assess the scale of the medical impact
It is also undertaking a clinical review of patients who have died since the loss of documents was discovered in March 2016 to examine whether delays in material reaching GPs played any part in any patient’s death.
The correspondence included the results of blood and urine tests, and of biopsies and screening tests for diseases including cancer. It also included letters containing details of patients’ visits to hospital, including to oncology clinics and information about what they had been diagnosed with after visiting A&E. Other paperwork that went astray included summaries of the care patients had received while in hospital. Some involved material related to cases of child protection.
In total, 708,000 pieces of correspondence were undelivered. However, 200,000 of these were not clinically relevant as they were temporary change of address forms.
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The mislaid documents, which included screening results and diagnoses, were accidentally left to languish in a warehouse. Photograph: Medical Research Council/Douglas/PA