INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: Regulators are investigating whether data protection laws have been breached after an ambulance trust admitted losing 42,000 patients’ confidential records.

East Midlands Ambulance Service Trust has admitted that a data cartridge containing scanned handwritten forms went missing last week.

Trust chief executive Sue Noyes said: “A data cartridge containing just under 42,000 electronic copies of scanned handwritten patient report forms which we believe are from September 2012 to November 2012, has gone missing from our Beechdale divisional headquarters in Nottingham.

“The cartridge is small and there is a possibility that it is still on our premises. We are conducting a thorough search of the building.”

In a statement the trust said that the data could only be read using hardware on its premises which is now “obsolete”.

It was unlikely that the information stored on the missing cartridge could be viewed by anyone outside the organisation, it added.

Ms Noyes said: “We take our responsibility for the security and confidentiality of the information we record and store very seriously, and express sincere apologies for a patient data loss incident which we have reported to the Information Commissioner this week.

“It is extremely unfortunate that this incident has occurred, particularly as during this financial year [the trust] is replacing the current computerised storage system to strengthen security arrangements.”

A spokesman from the Information Commissioner’s Office said: “We have recently been made aware of a possible data breach at East Midlands Ambulance Service.

“We will be making enquiries into the circumstances of the alleged breach of the Data Protection Act before deciding what action, if any, needs to be taken.”