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“Trusts have a responsibility to their patients”

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a reprimand to Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust after a computer system caused some patient referrals to be delayed or lost altogether.

The University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust (UHDB) was created when Derby Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust merged in July 2018. The infringement was first detected at The Florence Nightingale Community Hospital in Derby.

In 2019, UHDB was informed by NHS England of an issue with the national digital platform where referrals dropped off the worklist after 180 days. After 550 days, if not managed appropriately, the information would be lost to the hospital altogether. The complaint was made to the Trust in January 2023 by a patient, then reported to the ICO.

The investigation found UHDB failed to implement a formal process or apply a suitable level of security when processing referrals. UHDB failed to have any formal oversight in place to ensure referrals were being effectively managed.

As a result of this error, nearly 5,000 patients were affected. Of those, more than 4,100 patients experienced delays in their referral which had the potential to cause distress and inconvenience. The remaining 569 patients referrals disappeared from the system altogether. Some patients had to wait for over two years for medical treatment to be arranged.

“This mishandling of data has caused unnecessary distress and disruption to patients, who should be able to trust their healthcare providers to look after their personal information properly.

“Trusts have a responsibility to their patients, and we cannot see any more mistakes of this kind. We are pleased to see the Trust has taken remedial steps towards patients impacted, as well as sharing learning throughout the organisation to ensure that these mistakes are not repeated.”

Natasha Longson, Head of Investigations

Actions recommended in the reprimand include supporting affected patients, ensuring that processes are in place to prevent a repeat of the issue and sharing learning from the mistakes across the Trust.

The full reprimand can be read here.

Notes for editors
  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the UK’s independent regulator for data protection and information rights law, upholding information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  2. The  ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA2018), the United Kingdom General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR), the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR), Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR) and a further five acts and regulations. 
  3. The ICO can take action to address and change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. 
  4. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to