East Midlands Ambulance Service has revealed it has lost a data cartridge containing copies of the records of almost 42,000 ambulance crew call-outs, including thousands from Northamptonshire.
The huge data breach was discovered on Monday at the NHS trust’s headquarters in Nottingham and revealed today following fruitless searches of the building.
Patient records are made by ambulance crews by hand then scanned and placed on a computer system. The data is then dowloaded from the computer mainframe onto a cartridge and stored in a safe.
It is believed the missing cartridge, spanning September 2012 to Novbember 2012, was lost some time between the data being downloaded and put in the safe, which is likely to have been at the end of 2013.
The case was present, but the cartridge itself is unaccounted for.
Sue Noyes, East Midlands Ambulance Service chief executive, said: “We take our responsibility for the security and confidentiality of the information we record and store very seriously, and express sincere apologies for a patient data loss incident, which we have reported to the Information Commissioner this week.
“A data cartridge containing just under 42,000 electronic copies of scanned handwritten Patient Report Forms, which we believe are from September 2012 to November 2012, has gone missing from our Beechdale divisional headquarters in Nottingham.
“The cartridge is small and there is a possibility that it is still on our premises; we are conducting a thorough search of the building.”
Mrs Noyes said she was certain the data can only be read via the specific hardware EMAS has at its premises, which is no longer in production and “obsolete”. She She said it was therefore it is unlikely that the information stored on the missing cartridge can be viewed by anyone outside of the NHS trust
Mrs Noyes said the incident had been reported to the Information Commissioner, the NHS organisations who regulate EMAS and Nottinghamshire Police.
She said: “It is extremely unfortunate that this incident has occurred, particularly as during this financial year EMAS is replacing the current computerised storage system to strengthen security arrangements.”
People who received an ambulance response during September 2012 to November 2012, and who had their details recorded in handwriting on a paper Patient Report Form, can speak to us via telephone 0115 884 5055 (8am to 8pm) if they have any concerns about the data loss.
Mrs Noyes said:“We have taken a proactive approach to report this because we are an open and transparent service and we know it is our duty to inform people when such an incident occurs.”