NHS England have launched an investigation to find out how many patients have been affected by the biggest loss of medical documents in the history of the health service, and whether delays in reports reaching their GPs have played a part in any deaths.
The missing medical correspondence, mislaid by the NHS Shared Business Service (SBS), included blood and urine tests, treatment plans, material related to child protection cases and cancer diagnoses.
It has become apparent that Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt was aware of the problem in March 2016, after health bosses found that approximately 708,000 letters had been lost by the SBS since 2011. Mr Hunt then choose to disclose details of the breach quietly on the last day of parliament before the summer break in 2016, meaning that the story went relatively un-noticed at the time.
Mr Hunt has however commented that there is “no evidence” that this mishap has led to any patients being put at risk.
The British Medical Association’s GP committee deputy chairman Richard Vautrey has advised that “this is a very serious incident, it should never have happened and it’s an example of what happens when the NHS tries to cut costs by inviting private companies to do work which they don’t do properly.”
It has been reported that the NHS has so far spent £2.2m on getting GPs to look at the returned correspondence, which primarily affects patients in the East Midlands, the South West of England and Northeast London.
Ally Taft, Partner at the Medical Accident Group, said that “it is very worrying to hear that such a large quantity of important medical records were misplaced and that this blunder was kept relatively secret until now, when it occurred over a 5 year period from 2011-2016. People could have died as a result of this mishap or been seriously harmed following a delay in diagnosis or the administration of vital medication. I am very glad to hear that there are no reported deaths or serious injuries as a result of this and I hope that lessons can be learnt from this mistake.”
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