The confidential documents, some containing medical information and test results, were mislaid during a five-year period
NHS England is investigating the impact of an administrative error that saw half a million patient results and letters sent to storage rather than to their GP or filed in their patient records.
The NHS is now assessing whether anyone’s health was adversely affected by the mistake, which occurred in the East Midlands, the South West and north-east London between 2011 and 2016.
Of the 2,500 patients identified as at risk due to the blunder, 2,000 have now been reassessed by doctors with no harm detected, according to Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary. The other 500 are still being assessed.
Hunt was asked by Labour MPs to explain to the House of Commons why NHS Shared Business Services failed to pass on the documents, which had come to them either because they were incorrectly addressed or needed re-routing because the patient had moved to a new GP practice. Instead of passing them on, they were stored in a warehouse.
The documents are said to have included blood test, biopsy and cancer screening results, as well as correspondence relating to cases of child protection.
According to an NHS England spokesperson, the old correspondence has since been reviewed by a team, including clinical experts, and has been delivered, where possible, to the correct practice. They said NHS Shared Business Services had expressed regret for the situation.
“Hopefully, this will not have serious implications for any of the affected patients’ health, but there is no doubt that this error could have done so,” said Cathryn Davies, senior clinical negligence solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors.
“Delays in test results can mean a delay in diagnosis, which in turn could lead to serious consequences for patients. We hope this won’t be the case in this instance, but lessons must be learned so from this episode.
“Patients must be able to trust the NHS’ ability to uphold the confidentiality of their medical information and treat it respectfully. Hardworking frontline NHS staff need to know they are getting the right information, and that it’s up to date, as they try to provide the best possible healthcare to patients.”
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