The Department of Health has written to 46 PCTs, 142 GP practices and 12 acute trusts to warn them to take action over ‘inappropriately' stored medical records that have allowed patients' door codes to be printed on the front of envelopes.
It was forced to take action after Pulse revealed last month there had been a reported 216 incidences where door codes were printed on the front of patients' letters after having been stored on the Personal Demographic Service, run by NHS Connecting for Health.
The DH launched an investigation and has now admitted there were in fact 882 incidences of the problem, caused when codes for door entry and key safe boxes were wrongly typed into the address fields of records stored on the PDS.
The DH said the problem, which may have placed vulnerable elderly patients at risk, had occurred because NHS staff wanted to ensure they could get to patients needing treatment at home.
A spokesperson said: ‘Since being made aware additional confidential information was being stored inappropriately on the PDS and National Health Applications and Infrastructure Services, we have taken action to ensure this information is removed.'
'We have no evidence this led to security breaches, but it is important it is stopped. Local NHS organisations will decide whether patients or carers need to be contacted to consider whether PIN codes need to be changed.'
Some GPs questioned the security of giving so many staff access to information on the PDS.
Dr Paul Thornton, a GP in Kingsbury, Warwickshire, said: ‘If this system was confidential the keycode recording would be just unfortunate. But because so many people now have access it can never be secure.'