Nearly 100 medical records have been lost in Northern Ireland over the last three years.
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey revealed the figures in response to a question from DUP MLA Simon Hamilton — who is alarmed at the number of lost records.
Figures released by Mr McGimpsey show that in 2005/06, a total of 25 medical files were lost and this number rose again the following two years. In 2007/08, 39 files were lost.
Statistics stated there were eight incidents of data protection breaches relating to medical records over the five-year period.
Calling for an immediate review on how the public sector handles personal information, Mr Hamilton said: “Everyone has been alarmed at recent revelations about the loss of personal data by various arms of government across the UK, like the loss of half the country’s bank details by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
He added: “It is deeply troubling that in Northern Ireland the number of lost medical records has risen year on year since 2005/06.
“For a whole host of reasons, no one would want potentially all and sundry to know everything about their health and well being. Not only can a patient’s medical records include their own history but also sometimes family medical history in instances where there are conditions common to many family members.
“For a person to gain access to their own medical records, it isn’t even a simple and straightforward exercise with them quite rightly having to enter into a process involving various checks.
“Indeed, in certain circumstances, doctors have the right to withhold from the patient any information the release of which would cause serious harm to the mental or physical health of the patient or where there are concerns about capacity.
“I welcome the fact that NHS in Northern Ireland have an incident recording system in place which allows them to act appropriately as quickly as possible to either a breach of or loss of a medical record. I also appreciate that the number of lost medical record incidents in Northern Ireland is much less than the problems on the mainland but I’m sure everyone would agree that the near 100 lost medical records in the past three years are worrying and that the ongoing rise in cases is something which the Department needs to action to address.
A DHSSPS spokesman said the Health Department has issued records management guidance to ensure records remain secure.
He added: “The department has also drawn up a records management controls assurance standard which is subject to audit within each organisation. Compliance is monitored annually by the department.”