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Hospital review after records found in shop

PUBLISHED: 15:00 27 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:45 02 July 2010

Hospital notes were found outside Aldi supermarket.

Hospital notes were found outside Aldi supermarket.

Dan Grimmer

A major review of the procedures surrounding patient confidentiality is being carried out by health bosses in Norfolk after hospital records were found outside a supermarket by a member of the public.

A major review of the procedures surrounding patient confidentiality is being carried out by health bosses in Norfolk after hospital records were found outside a supermarket by a member of the public.

Highly confidential records with personal and clinical details of 11 elderly and vulnerable patients at the new rehabilitation unit at Norwich Community Hospital were on the ward handover sheets which were discovered outside Aldi in Plumstead Road last Monday .

Details on the three sheets regarded patients who were in Alder Ward over a four-day period at the Bowthorpe Road unit and included names, ages and dates of admission; medical diagnosis and operation details and dates; medical history; nursing care received; therapy needed and details of discharge.

NHS Norfolk Community Health and Care, which runs the service, confirmed a full investigation was “underway” and said following the incident an internal working group had been set up to “lead a review of policies and procedures” on patient confidentiality and to ensure such a situation did not occur again.

Sheila Adam's O'Shea, managing director of NHS Norfolk community health and care, said a “caldicott guardian” - a senior person responsible for protecting the confidentiality of patients - is working with the investigation team to try and establish how this situation occurred and to look at any actions that might be taken as a result.

She said: “At this stage of the investigation it is not appropriate to discuss any of the initial findings.”

“We have made a commitment to review the processes and systems we have around the handling of patient information and this group is tasked with taking that forward.

“In the meantime, we have reaffirmed to all of our staff their responsibilities to follow the stringent procedures already in place to protect patient confidentiality.”

Patients and/or their families, have been contacted by senior staff to ensure that they were aware of the issue, to answer their concerns and to offer any support.

Letters are also being sent to each of the 11 patients to update them on the situation.

She said that the response from the patients had been 'very supportive'. “The patients involved seem to have been reassured by our actions in this matter so far, and to recognise that we take breaches of patient confidentially extremely seriously,” she said.

“Once again, we would like to send them our most sincere apologies for any distress caused to them.”

Some of the discharge notes stated whether the patient lived alone, details of next of kin and how mobile the patient is.

All the patients are over 70 years old and some have a multitude of serious conditions, including Parkinson's Disease, asthma, arthritis, bowel problems, incontinence, emphysema and heart conditions.

The sheets were also covered in handwritten notes, which include mobile phone numbers of contacts of some of the patients and also addresses and notes on access visits.

The incident has raised serious questions about patient confidentiality with health campaigners calling for a full investigation.

Norfolk health watchdog LINk (Local Involvement Network) said whoever was responsible for the breach needs to be “dealt with accordingly”.

Do you have a health story for the Evening News Call Sarah Hall on 01603 772426 or email sarah.hall2@archant.co.uk

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