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Calls for Digitization After NHS Data Loss Blunder

Calls for Digitization After NHS Data Loss Blunder

Security experts are urging the NHS to accelerate its digital transformation after more than half a million letters sent between GPs and hospitals went undelivered over a five-year period, putting patient lives at risk.  

Thousands of patients are feared to have been harmed by the massive mix-up, which led to the company hired to deliver the documents instead storing them in a warehouse, according to the Guardian.

NHS Shared Business Services, which was part owned by the Department of Health, has now finally delivered the letters to 7700 GP surgeries up and down the country.

However, more than 500,000 documents including test results and cancer screenings were mislaid between 2011 and 2016.

NHS England has now been forced to pay GPs over £2 million to examine the correspondence. The report claimed 2500 cases so far require further investigation to discover potential for harm.

A separate investigation has apparently been launched to see whether any patient deaths may have been caused by the incident, which was finally discovered in March last year.

Opposition party leaders are claiming health secretary Jeremy Hunt deliberately misled parliament by failing to provide details of the incident last year.

Hunt’s plans for a paperless NHS by 2018 were quietly dropped this month after an outside expert apparently judged the country’s hospital IT systems unable to support the move.

However, Smoothwall healthcare specialist, Zak Suleman, argued the latest revelations are proof of the need to urgently digitize all parts of the NHS.

“A fully paperless NHS that allows the easy exchange of data would be more efficient and fool proof than the current set-up. However, to simply ‘digitalize’ one of the biggest institutions in the UK is a complex overhaul and the government must ensure, above all else, that all data is kept safe and secure,” he claimed.

“The NHS must embrace technology now or risk further debacles using outdated solutions.”

Egress co-founder, Tony Pepper, added that physical data is inherently less secure than digital, being difficult to trace and open to interference.

"While digital records have their own set of challenges, with the right foresight and security and compliance mechanisms in place, it's far less likely to go missing or be subject on this scale to the same issues of human error,” he argued.

“We're yet to discover the full extent of this data loss, but it's not an over-reaction to suggest the difference between going digital or not is a matter of life or death."

Source: Information Security Magazine