Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust destroyed patient data

An NHS trust in Kent accidentally destroyed 10,000 archived records and failed to realise its mistake for three months, it has been revealed.

The Information Commissioner's Office said the Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust records were put in a disposal room due to a lack of space.

They were then destroyed by mistake between 28 and 31 December last year.

In a statement, the trust said the loss of the records was regrettable but it had not posed any risk to patients.

It has not been revealed how many of the records contained personal information - the majority of which would have been several years old.

Some included the names and addresses of former patients and some staff and a limited amount of medical information relating to the patients' previous treatment.

'Adequate audit trails'

Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust said the information would have been disposed of as part of its confidential waste process.

Sally Anne Poole, the acting head of enforcement at the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), 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 - and, had they had adequate audit trails in place, they would have been able to keep track of where this information was at all times."

As a result of the incident, the ICO has ordered the trust to take action to ensure its staff are made aware of data protection polices and procedures and that they receive suitable training on how to follow them.

The trust will also regularly monitor its staff to make sure policies are being correctly followed.

Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust said it fully accepted the findings and judgement from the ICO.

"We investigated the incident at the time, and formally reported it to the ICO," it said in a statement.

"We have strengthened our information governance processes following the outcome of our investigations."

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