Alleged 'lost' and 'missing' NHS files and records

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) made this Freedom of Information request to Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

The request was partially successful.

[Name Removed] (Account suspended)

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

This morning I read James Titcombe 's account of his plea to investigate his case to the PHSO and was struck that he was stating that NHS records on his the death of his son, Joshua, had been withheld,as so many complaints seem to do.

Clearly, if these records had been available to the PHSO the investigators then Joshua Titcombe's parents' case would very likely to have been upheld - as the case would have very likely taken an entirely different course and protected more mothers and children as a result.

Logically, because the PHSO is not likely to be uphold any case in the absence the crucial source material.

The 'loss, misplacement or withholding' of NHS patient medical records seems to be a continuing and consistent pattern - in my case, many others who gave evidence to PASC and those who use WDTK.

This frustrating element seems to be present in the majority of cases.

:::

Therefore is it possible to establish in how many cases brought to the PHSO that it is alleged by the complainant that files have 'gone missing' been 'withheld', 'lost deliberately' 'retained' - to prevent fair investigation by the PHSO?

To ask the PHSO information team to look at a years' records would be an enormous and time-consuming task.....

1. But would it be possible to narrow a search to the 20 most contentious cases, as these are where information retention is the matter of the most anguish to complainants?..... possibly in cases in which complainants are bereaved?

2. Or a specific period in the last year, say three months , that would give some idea of the extent of how much the absence of NHS files is affecting the fair investigation of complaints?

If you could give any advice on how to narrow the exact terms of this request - that would give an accurate picture of the problem - I would be grateful to the FoI team.

::::

It is also alleged that retention of NHS files is becoming a bigger problem in that it is un-policed - As there appears to be no comeback to health boards whose files suddenly 'disappear' when a suspicious complainant wishes to read them.

3. Has the PHSO any comparative evidence from complainants to show that lost, missing, or retained NHS files are affecting more complaints than was previously the case? Say on a year to year basis?

4. If not, has the PHSO any plans to investigate this problem?

5. Has the PHSO ever used its wide-ranging powers to investigate why case crucial medical files are not forthcoming to complainants from NHS boards?

I can see that the PHSO re-requested the missing files in the Joshua Titcombe case, seemingly to no avail. But I am thinking in terms of a more practical application, such as visiting the health board, or via the courts?

Yours faithfully,

[Name Removed]

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

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foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear Ms [first name redacted] Oakley

 

Your information request (FDN-194018)

 

Further to your email of 16 June 2014, I am writing in response to your
information request.

 

We are unable to locate the 20 ‘most contentious’ cases relating to the
loss of NHS records, because there is no way in which we could identify
these for you.  Even if we were able to locate these cases for you, it is
not clear what information it is you seek from them. 

 

However, I can provide you with information about the number of resolved
cases brought to PHSO that have involved a complaint about NHS records. 
These cases are allocated a specific key word which has enabled us to
extract this information for you.

2013/14 - 458 cases
2012/13 - 375 cases
2011/12 - 329 cases

 

You might also be interested to see information included in one of the
case studies available on our website, which involves an issue relating to
the assumed loss of medical records:

[1]http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/healthchp/ca...

 

Beyond information available in reports on our website, we are unable to
provide you with further information about the loss of NHS data or provide
you with comparative statistics.  This is because any relevant information
would be held across our case files and there is no way of extracting it
for you without manually searching through each case.  Section 12 of the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 applies because it would exceed the
appropriate cost limit to comply with your request.

 

If you are concerned about record keeping in the NHS, you might want to
approach the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). One of the
Information Commissioner’s powers under the Data Protection Act is to
carry out audits of organisations that process personal data.  Reports of
these audits are available on their website at the following link:
[2]http://ico.org.uk/what_we_cover/audits_a...

Contact details for the ICO are also available on their website.  As a
regulatory organisation for the upholding of information rights, the ICO
would be the best placed authority to provide you with an overview of the
type you seek.

 

I hope that this information is helpful.  If you are unhappy with my
handling of your information request, you can ask for a review by writing
to: complaints[3][email address]

 

If you still have concerns after that, you can ask the Information
Commissioner’s Office to look into your case.  Their contact details are
available on their website at: [4]www.ico.org.uk

 

Yours sincerely

 

Aimee Gasston

Freedom of Information / Data Protection Officer

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

W: [5]www.ombudsman.org.uk

 

Please email the FOI/DP team at: [6][email address]

 

 

 

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Della left an annotation ()

I see that the figure shows a rise year after year. What is PHSO doing about missing NHS records - which is a breach of the law? How is the Ombudsman getting to grips with this problem?

[Name Removed] (Account suspended)

Dear foiofficer,

Thank you.

I can see that it is a well considered response - despite the constraints of providing an exact response

And that the figures are rising this year.

But they logically must be the 'tiny tip of the proverbial immense iceberg', as normally NHS complainants cannot get past stage 1 of the NHS complaints system if the files are 'withheld or 'lost' from the moment they make a complaint.

(Let alone forward a complaint to the PHSO).

Since the PHSO is the only organisation which can investigate this problem on the wide-ranging power level required ( The ICO seemingly cannot - or does not).

Since this is now probably the biggest problem for NHS complainants, as 'loss' or 'withholding ' of files is now pervasive. The PHSO does not seem to be closely monitoring or dealing with this cruel strategy for case-blocking to the extent that it might.

As it's now hard to find any person, without a lawyer, and who just wants to 'find out what happened', who has not experienced this problem.

So the PHSO is either unaware of the extent of the problem - or has insufficient financial resources to do anything about it, (which I suspect is the situation with the ICO), even though it has the wide-ranging powers to do so.

Could I therefore ask you to follow up this request and find out if there is anything on file that indicates that the PHSO is intending to explore the use of this illegal strategy in any way... (Say in the form of a report, on the lines of that of Sepsis).

And if so, which areas will the PHSO be examining in order make the report?

Yours sincerely,

[Name Removed]

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Thank you for your e-mail to the Parliamentary and Health Service
Ombudsman. This return e-mail shows that we have received your
correspondence.

show quoted sections

All email communications with PHSO pass through the Government Secure
Intranet, and may be automatically logged, monitored and/or recorded for
legal purposes.
The MessageLabs Anti Virus Service is the first managed service to achieve
the CSIA Claims Tested Mark (CCTM Certificate Number 2006/04/0007), the UK
Government quality mark initiative for information security products and
services. For more information about this please visit www.cctmark.gov.uk

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear [Name Removed]

 

Thank you for your email.

 

I can confirm that there aren’t currently any plans to publish a special
report into NHS record keeping.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Luke Whiting

Head of FOI/DP

 

 

 

From: [Name Removed] [mailto:[FOI #216478 email]]
Sent: 15 July 2014 12:58
To: foiofficer
Subject: Re: Your information request (FDN-194018)

 

Dear foiofficer,

Thank you. 

I can see that it is a well considered response - despite the constraints
of providing an exact response

And that the figures are rising this year.

But they logically must be the 'tiny tip of the proverbial immense
iceberg', as normally NHS complainants cannot get past stage 1 of the NHS
complaints system  if the files are 'withheld  or 'lost' from the moment
they make a complaint.

(Let alone forward a complaint to the PHSO).

Since the PHSO is the only organisation  which can  investigate  this
problem on the wide-ranging power level  required  ( The ICO seemingly
cannot - or does not).

Since this is now probably the biggest problem for  NHS complainants, as
'loss' or 'withholding ' of files is now pervasive. The PHSO does not seem
to be closely monitoring or dealing with this cruel strategy for
case-blocking to the extent that it might.

As it's now hard to find any person, without a lawyer, and who just wants
to 'find out what happened',  who has not experienced this problem.

So the PHSO is either unaware of the extent of the problem - or has
insufficient financial resources to do anything about it, (which I suspect
is the situation with the ICO),   even though it has the wide-ranging
powers to do so.

Could I therefore ask you to follow up this request and find out if there
is anything on file that indicates that the PHSO is intending to explore
the use of this illegal strategy in any way... (Say  in the form of a
report, on the lines of that of Sepsis).

And if so, which areas will the PHSO be examining in order make the
report?

Yours sincerely,

[Name Removed]

show quoted sections

[Name Removed] (Account suspended)

Dear foiofficer,

Shame.. But thanks anyway.

Yours sincerely,

[Name Removed]

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Thank you for your e-mail to the Parliamentary and Health Service
Ombudsman. This return e-mail shows that we have received your
correspondence.

show quoted sections

All email communications with PHSO pass through the Government Secure
Intranet, and may be automatically logged, monitored and/or recorded for
legal purposes.
The MessageLabs Anti Virus Service is the first managed service to achieve
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[Name Removed] (Account suspended)

Dear foiofficer,

Could I therefore ask why the PHSO is not interested in the illegal acts of the NHS, which prevent complainants from furthering their case to the PHSO?

Post the Mid Staffs and Morecambe Bay NHS scandals, have there been any internal discussions about dealing with this problem, which clearly can affect the PHSO's ability to spot clusters of negligence within the NHS?

In that if only one person complains to the PHSO through the inability to of many others to obtain the NHS medical files, then the PHSO is more likely to assume that a cluster of negligence doesn't exist.

I would therefore like to know how the PHSO intends to deal with this now widespread problem.

If the PHSO has picked up on this problem,and us concerned about it then some discussion should exist.

If the PHSO is still content to rely on information that the NHS is willing to provide - which clearly skews the effectiveness of the PHSO and Ieaves it open to accusations of partiality - then there will be nothing on file.

Yours sincerely,

[Name Removed]

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Thank you for your e-mail to the Parliamentary and Health Service
Ombudsman. This return e-mail shows that we have received your
correspondence.

show quoted sections

All email communications with PHSO pass through the Government Secure
Intranet, and may be automatically logged, monitored and/or recorded for
legal purposes.
The MessageLabs Anti Virus Service is the first managed service to achieve
the CSIA Claims Tested Mark (CCTM Certificate Number 2006/04/0007), the UK
Government quality mark initiative for information security products and
services. For more information about this please visit www.cctmark.gov.uk

A.E. left an annotation ()

There are plenty of PHSO complainants who did have all their records provided but they still did not receive a fair and unbiased investigation by the PHSO. There is a problem in the whole system - all the way to the top.