NHS accused of covering up huge data loss that put thousands at risk

Exclusive: More than 500,000 pieces of patient data between GPs and hospitals went undelivered between 2011 and 2016

An MRI scan
The mislaid documents, which included screening results and diagnoses, were accidentally left to languish in a warehouse. Photograph: Medical Research Council/Douglas/PA

Thousands of patients are feared to have been harmed after the NHS lost more than half a million pieces of confidential medical correspondence, including test results and treatment plans.

In one of the biggest losses of sensitive clinical information in the NHS’s 69-year history, more than 500,000 pieces of patient data sent between GPs and hospitals went undelivered over the five years from 2011 to 2016.

The mislaid documents, which range from screening results to blood tests to diagnoses, failed to reach their intended recipients because the company meant to ensure their delivery mistakenly stored them in a warehouse.

NHS England has quietly launched an inquiry to discover how many patients have been affected. So far 2,500 cases that require further investigation to discover potential for harm have been identified. The NHS is spending millions of pounds paying doctors to assess the scale of the medical impact.

It is also undertaking a clinical review of patients who have died since the loss of documents was discovered in March 2016 to examine whether delays in material reaching GPs played any part in any patient’s death.

The correspondence included the results of blood and urine tests, and of biopsies and screening tests for diseases including cancer. It also included letters containing details of patients’ visits to hospital, including to oncology clinics and information about what they had been diagnosed with after visiting A&E. Other paperwork that went astray included summaries of the care patients had received while in hospital. Some involved material related to cases of child protection.

In total, 708,000 pieces of correspondence were undelivered. However, 200,000 of these were not clinically relevant as they were temporary change of address forms.

NHS England secretly assembled a 50-strong team of administrators, based in Leeds, to clear up the mess created by NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS), who mislaid the documents. The private company, co-owned by the Department of Health and the French firm Sopra Steria, was working as a kind of internal postal service within the NHS in England until March last year.

The clear-up team is being led by Jill Matthews, the managing director of the primary-care support services arm of NHS England.

Documents detailing the team’s work, seen by the Guardian, reveal it has finally returned the lost material to 7,700 GP surgeries, and assessed how many potential incidents of harm may have occurred at each practice. They show that GP surgeries up and down England have been affected, with some facing a few dozen cases of potential harm arose from missing correspondence.

GPs have so far been paid £2.2m to examine returned correspondence and cross-check it with other material in patients’ medical records, although the internal documents show that some have said that they are too busy to do so and others have asked surgery administrators to do it.

The British Medical Association warned that some patients might have taken extra drugs unnecessarily or had the diagnosis of their illness delayed because of the blunder.

“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, the private company in this case being NHS Shared Business Services,” said Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA’s GPs committee and a family doctor in Yorkshire.

Read More : The Guardian.

NHS contract given to privateer – even though it costs more : Morning Star.

HEALTH bosses in Yorkshire were attacked by Unite yesterday for handing a multi-million pound community care contract to the private sector despite a lower bid from an NHS provider.

The contract will transfer 700 NHS jobs to the private sector.

Health union Unite says the awarding of the contract by East Riding of Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to City Health Care Partnership (CHCP) “undermines the ethos” of the NHS.

CHCP describes itself as a “for better profit” co-owned health and care provider. The firm claims to be run as a John Lewis-style social partnership, however campaigners have blasted the model as a step toward privatisation.

Former Tory cabinet minister Francis Maude encouraged employee-owned mutuals, saying they were the future of public services, suggesting public-sector staff could take over the services they provide.

However the John Lewis model has proved controversial in the NHS, with the Hinchingbrooke Hopital franchise collapsing as privateers Circle Health walked away less than three years into a 10-year franchise deal.

The five-year East Riding contract will cost the NHS £27 million a year.

A less costly bid was submitted by current provider Humber NHS Foundation Trust, but was rejected by the CCG which claimed there had been “a robust procurement process … conducted in a fair, open and transparent manner.”

It confirmed the outcome was legally binding and said it offers value for money.

Unite said that the benchmark for awarding NHS contracts should be “best value for money,” but that it appeared this had not been applied by the CCG.

Read More : Morning Star.

PMQs: Theresa May repeats herself five times on the NHS, but doesn’t give an answer : LeftFootForward.

Corbyn must figure out how to break down May’s flimsy defences.

This is getting old.

At Prime Ministers Questions today, Theresa May answered Jeremy Corbyn’s questions on the NHS with the same tired response that the Conservatives have been leaning on for seven years.

Corbyn opened with a question on government cuts to the number of hospital beds ‘when hospitals are struggling to provide essential care’.

May responded:

“Let’s actually look at Labour’s record on this issue. In the last six years of the last Labour government, 25,000 hospital beds were cut. But we don’t even need to go as far back as that. Let’s just look at what was Labour’s policy before the last election. Because before the last election, the Rt Hon Member for Leigh, a former Labour shadow health secretary, said the following ‘what I’d cut are hospital beds’. Labour policy — cut hospital beds.”

Read More : LeftFootForward.

Stretched nurses have no time to care for dying patients : Morning Star.

NURSES battling against staff shortages don’t have the time to look after dying patients, according to the Nursing Standard journal and the Marie Curie charity.

Their report published today, found nearly seven in 10 are concerned about the effect of staff shortages on specialist palliative care.

And two thirds of almost 1,000 nurses and healthcare assistants polled said they struggle to find enough time to give proper care to patients who are at the end of their lives.

Half of nurses said that they have seen patients spend the end of their life in hospital rather than in their own home, showing yet again Britain’s social care crisis.

Marie Curie director Dee Sissons said that it was worrying that delays to funding and community care is leaving dying patients “stuck unnecessarily in hospital.

“We can’t dispute the evidence that the majority of nurses don’t feel that they have time to provide high-quality care to their dying patients.”

Amanda Cheesley from the Royal College of Nursing said: “Death can come at any hour of the day or night and expert care needs to be available at all times but shortages can make that care very difficult to provide.

“The government and health services must work together to ensure that everyone is able to access the best care at the end of their lives.”

Labour also demanded yesterday that government immediately provide proper funding for social care.

Link : Morning Star.

Resist the Tories’ STP plan—to Slash, Trash and Privatise the NHS : Socialist Worker.

Uniting the local fights in a national movement to keep our NHS public can wipe the smug grin off this Tory privatisers mug

Uniting the local fights in a national movement to keep our NHS public can wipe the smug grin off this Tory privatiser’s mug (Pic: DoH Flickr)

The Tories’ NHS plans will mean hospital closures across England.

Their Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), which divide England into 44 “footprints”, will cut hospital services in two thirds of England, according to the BBC.

The STPs hope to shift care from hospitals onto “primary care” based in the community.

But council social care services have been slashed.

This has meant that patients often cannot be discharged because there aren’t enough social care packages.

That’s set to worsen. Responding to news this week that the government is not going to increase funding to councils, the Tory chair of the Local Government Association said, “Social care faces a funding gap of at least £2.6 billion by 2020.”

He added that “our most vulnerable continue to face an ever more uncertain future”.

There is growing opposition to the STPs, with local groups springing up across England to oppose them.

The fact that the King’s Fund health charity, which supports the STPs, has been critical shows that they are in trouble.

Now we need to unite those fights.

The national “It’s Our NHS” protest on 4 March is our chance to do that.

Link : Socialist Worker.

Paramedics ‘tampered with trackers’ to avoid 999 calls at a scandal-hit NHS trust : Telegraph.

Paramedics at a scandal-hit NHS trust are accused of switching off ambulance tracking devices so they could avoid responding to 999 calls.

At least ten ambulance workers are under investigation for deliberate tampering with the trackers, so they could disappear for up to three hours at a time, putting patients at risk.

The revelations came as the current head of South East Coast Ambulance Service trust stood down in the wake of allegations that he was among those found responsible for bullying.

The Health and Care Professions Council (HPC) yesterday heard that patients in potentially life-threatening situations were left in jeopardy because of efforts to mislead control room staff.

There are a number of members of staff who are tampering with MDT [mobile data terminal] devicesAndew Patterson

At least 10 paramedics from the trust’s ambulance station in Guildford, Surrey, are accused of deliberate tampering.

Carl Hudghton, 29, yesterday admitted that his actions could have had “catastrophic” consequences for patients, adding to delays for patients in need of emergency help.

He said he had switched off the tracker because he had a stomach ache and thought he might not be allowed a break.

A dispatch team leader from the trust said the case was the one in a “long line of incidents” in which paramedics had tampered with the devices.

Clinical operation manager Andew Patterson said that around 10 or 11 cases were under investigation.

“There are a number of members of staff who are tampering with MDT [mobile data terminal] devices. It started with one particular employee, and then all the people who worked with that employee were investigated.”

Read More : The Telegraph.

‘Permanent winter’ is coming in the NHS : LeftFootForward.

Lack of health and social care funding is driving year-round capacity strain.


Funding pressures and demographic shifts mean the NHS now faces winter-type pressures all year round, according to new analysis by the Financial Times.

It has always been the case that the health service faced some capacity strain during the winter months, because of higher levels of flu, respiratory illness and vomiting bugs.

However, the service now exists in a state of ‘permanent winter’, with serious capacity strain all year round, translating into longer waiting times, cancelled operations and declining patient outcomes.

While the government has insisted that growing pressures are the result of an aging population, this is clearly misrepresentative.

As the FT analysis shows, the increased pressure on acute hospital services is directly connected to cuts in other areas, including social care and other NHS service areas, including mental health, general practice and district nursing.

As a result, people who should be receiving care elsewhere in the community are being sent to hospital instead, or being kept in hospital longer than is required because there’s nowhere to discharge them too. This blocks beds, meaning that those requiring care that can only be provided in hospitals — such as cancer treatment — are more likely to face delays.

Indeed, the FT shows that performance on critical cancer targets has plummeted in the last four years.

Read More : LeftFootForward.