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Hospital data boob: Records left in bin room got binned

10,000 patients' records destroyed in NHS blunder

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Bungling hospital staff accidentally destroyed patient data after a worker put 10,000 records in the wrong room, an investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office [ICO] revealed today.

The lost records were boxed up and put in a ward waste disposal room because there wasn't enough space in the proper storage room, the ICO probe found. It is believed that the records were then accidentally removed and destroyed between the 28 and 31 December 2010.

Darent Valley Hospital, in Dartford, Kent, failed to clock that the information was missing for three months.

It's unknown exactly how much personal information was in the 10,000 records but it is believed that they contained the addresses and contact details of some staff and former patients and a limited amount of medical information relating to the patients’ previous treatment. The majority of the records are believed to be several years old.

The Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust has told the ICO that the loss of these records does not pose a clinical risk to the people affected.

Acting Head of Enforcement at the ICO, Sally Anne Poole, said: “Although the majority of information lost was several years old and only being kept for archiving purposes, there is no excuse for failing to keep it secure. The hospital should have ensured that the records were kept in a safe area.”

The ICO ruled that the trust had breached the Data Protection Act by accidentally destroying the archived records and has ordered it to take action to ensure that staff are aware of data protection policies.

Maybe they should get a bigger storage room, too. ®

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