Database ballsup: NHS under pressure over fresh patient record error

Thousands of discrepancies reported between two databases

NHS hosptial photo, by Marbury via Shutterstock

The government is facing another NHS IT scandal, as it scrambles to confirm whether discrepancies between two databases have affected patient care.

NHS England confirmed The Register that it was working to establish the impact of thousands of mismatches, which saw patient records present on one database and absent from another. There are concerns that the error could mean patients have missed appointments for disease screening and vaccinations.

According to the Health Service Journal, there are 120,000 discrepancies between the Personal Demographics Service (PDS) and the National Health Application and Infrastructure Services (NHAIS).

The PDS is a national database of NHS patient details, recording name, address, date of birth and NHS number.

The NHAIS is a suite of software across primary care that manages GP registration, GP payments and demographic details, and is used to send out invitations for NHS appointments.

The HSJ reported that the main concerns are related to 55,450 patient files that appear on the PDS and not the NHAIS. Some of these mismatched records date back to 2008, it said.

As a result, these patients may not have been invited to various health services, such as child immunisation, bowel cancer screening and newborn hearing screening.

Citing an internal document between NHS England and NHS Improvement, the report said the bodies had discussed the potential "risk of harm" to patients.

In a statement sent to The Register, NHS England confirmed that it was aware of the discrepancies between the systems and was working with NHS Digital and Public Health England to assess the situation.

"We are now working directly with GP practices to analyse and resolve these discrepancies," the spokeswoman said.

It is understood this is still a work in progress – and that once there is a better estimate of how many patients have been affected, the health secretary will make a formal statement.

The news comes just months after the NHS had to 'fess up to a "computer algorithm failure" that meant half a million women aged between 68 and 71 were not invited to their final breast cancer screening.

That failure, which dated back to 2009, was only discovered at the start of this year and was estimated to have caused up to 75 deaths.

The NHS’s IT systems are the subject of continued concerns, with outdated security systems cited as the reason WannaCry took hold across the health service so quickly, and a reliance on outdated kit.

Meanwhile, outsourcing giants Capita and Steria were recently fingered over thousands of pieces of missing clinical correspondence that has cost millions to fix. ®




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