Skip to content

Private contractor failed to send over 28,000 confidential letters in IT error

The NHS has launched a patient safety inquiry after it came to light that a private contractor failed to deliver more than 28,000 pieces of confidential medical correspondence to GPs.

The letters were part of the routine exercise of hospitals writing to doctors’ surgeries and patients to record what happened at an appointment.

The letters should have been sent to GPs after hospital consultations with over 22,000 patients between June 2019 and January 2020.

The group of hospitals affected have declared this failure as a patient safety “serious incident”.

The incident highlights the importance of carrying out due diligence on processors of personal data. It is important to ensure that you have adequate contractual arrangements in place with processors, which include, as a minimum, the requirements imposed by the GDPR.

For public sector organisations, this incident also helps to reiterate the importance that data protection should now play a part of their procurement exercises, and even more so when significant volumes of special category data are involved (such as information relating to a person’s health).

Ward Hadaway regularly advises public sector organisations on procurements and GDPR matters. If you are a controller of personal data, incidents like this emphasise the importance of trusting the organisation you are contracting with to process personal data on your behalf and ensuring any contract in place does not limit the processor’s liability at your expense.

If you are a processor of personal data, this incident helps to demonstrate the importance of ensuring that you can deliver the required services to the contractual standards and, particularly when dealing with public sector organisations who deal with large volumes of special category data, the risks and potential liabilities that can arise when things go wrong, not to mention the publicity that incidents such as this can create.

Our team of data protection and procurement experts are experienced in dealing with these types of issues. For more details on how we can help you, please get in touch with one of our specialist commercial lawyers.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

Follow us on LinkedIn

Keep up to date with all the latest updates and insights from our expert team

Take me there

Contact a specialist

Phil Tompkins

Partner | Commercial

+44 (0) 330 137 3415

+44 (0)7980 769 630

Email Phil Tompkins

Read bio

Meet the whole team

What we're thinking