The NHS body charged with handling and safeguarding confidential patient data is to publish the findings of three key investigations into alleged misuse of its information “within weeks”, HSJ has learned.

The trio of probes were all launched in March by the Health & Social Care Information Centre.

The three companies under scrutiny are mapping company Earthware, consultancy OmegaSolver and Beacon Consulting, the HSCIC confirmed to HSJ.

Although the investigations are being carried out separately, they are all understood to be examining whether ‘pseudonymised’ Hospital Episodic Statistics data, supplied by the HSCIC, had been published in a format that could have identified patients.

Although all names had been replaced with pseudonyms, data can still be idenfied when data sets include a low number of patients. This is possible when they refer to rare conditions, HSJ understands.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has proposed a “one strike and you’re out” approach to companies found to have misused patient data.

Beacon founder Tim Bradley said  his consultancy had not contravened any agreements and “more importantly” that no patients could have been identified as a result of how they had used the data.

Earthware and OmegaSolver did not respond to invitations to comment.  

Phil Booth, coordinator of privacy campaign group medConfidential, said the HSCIC’s investigations were not going far enough.

An spokeswoman for the HSCIC told HSJ it expected to publish the three reports “in the coming weeks” but that could not comment on potential sanctions as details were yet to be finalised.

The three investigations are being carried out separately from a full audit of all data releases made by the organisation’s predecessor the NHS Information Centre. This probe is being overseen by Sir Nick Partridge, a non-executive director of the HSCIC. His report is due to be published at the end of this month.