• Urgent safety review of tens of thousands of discrepancies between national IT systems
  • Risk that patients, including children, have missed out on screening and immunisation
  • Officials asked to provide estimates of risk to patients for secretary of state by Sunday

An urgent national review is underway into a mismatch of thousands of patient records that may have caused patients, including children, to miss out on disease screening and immunisation appointments, HSJ can reveal.

The investigation is at an early stage and there is currently no direct evidence any patients have been harmed.

But a NHS England and NHS Improvement document, obtained by HSJ, show concerns about potential “risk of harm” to patients associated with 120,000 discrepancies between two national IT NHS systems.

According to the document, produced earlier this month, urgent work was underway to “calculate or estimate the numbers of patients who have been affected”, including loss of access to health services.

“This must be achieved by 12 August 2018 so that the scale of the subsequent service response/patient contact strategy is clear and so that the (secretary of state) can make a public announcement which has sufficient accuracy.”

Services that patients may not have been invited to include child immunisation, newborns’ hearing screening, safeguarding, bowel cancer screening, breast screening, and abdominal aortic aneurysm screening.

The concerns relate primarily to 55,450 patient files that appear on one national database, called the Personal Demographics Service, and not a second database, known as the National Health Application and Infrastructure Service.

Some of the patient records that were recorded on one system, but not the other, date back to 2008.

PDS is essentially the national electronic database of NHS patient details such as name, address, date of birth and NHS Number.

NHAIS is a separate system that tracks GP patient registrations, GP payments and demographic details across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is also used to invite people to screening and other health services.

In theory, the two systems should have an identical set of patient details. If a patient appears on the PDS but not the NHAIS, this creates the potential for those patients to miss an invitation to screening and other health services.

Of less concern is 66,183 discrepancies in which patients appear on both systems but are coded under a different GP, and less than 1,000 patients who appear on the NHAIS but not the PDS.

Earlier this week an alert was issued to all clinical commissioning groups by NHS England, flagging the discrepancies.

The alert, seen by HSJ, said: “The accuracy of registration lists are important which is why, alongside Primary Care Support, the three national bodies [NHS Digital, NHS England, Public Health England] are now working directly with GP practices to analyse and reconcile these discrepancies. We appreciate the support of CCGs and practices as we work with them to resolve this.”

The news comes amid an ongoing review into an IT error in the national breast screening programme that resulted in 75 women’s lives being shortened.

The Department of Health and Social Care were approached for comment.