Page last updated at 16:42 GMT, Sunday, 7 March 2010

NHS in confidential data blunder in Cambridgeshire

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An investigation has begun into the health database letters blunder

Letters sent out to patients about the national NHS records database contained confidential data about other people, the BBC has learned.

A review has taken place after letters containing personal information were sent to the wrong patients in Cambridgeshire, BBC Look East found.

The letters contain details about which surgery the person attends and their NHS number.

NHS Connecting for Health is writing to patients affected to apologise.

The NHS is asking people whether they want their medical records to be transferred to a national database.

One such request went to Anne Watson at her home in Sawtry, Cambridgeshire.

The NHS would like to reassure people that the letters contain no medical information
NHS Connecting for Health statement

The envelope also contained a letter to another person, not known to Ms Watson.

"I was a bit shocked to have this information with National Health Service number and surgery address," she said.

The BBC found that five people living nearby in Sawtry had also received confidential information.

NHS Connecting for Health (CoH) said: "As part of our plans to inform patients about the Summary Care Record programme, NHS Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) have written personally to everyone in England over the age of 15 and a half.

"Some PCTs have been made aware that, in a small number of cases, more than one patient letter has been placed in an envelope.

"The NHS would like to reassure people that the letters contain no medical information. Furthermore, it should be emphasised that no-one will be able to access medical records as a result of this issue."

NHS CoH added that the contractor "responsible for sending out the letters has undertaken a rigorous review of their processes and have immediately implemented additional safeguards".

"We remain committed to patient safety and will write to those affected to apologise and provide reassurance," NHS CoH said.

A spokeswoman for the Information Commissioner's Office said: "The Information Commissioner takes all data security breaches seriously and we encourage organisations to report any breaches to us. Then we will look into it."

She said the organisation would expect the NHS to report this incident to them as a matter of "good practice".



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