The personal details of 1.6 million individuals were lost after they were placed on a CD that accidentally got sent to landfill.
According to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), Eastern and Coastal Kent Primary Care Trust sent a filing cabinet to landfill that contained a CD which had the address, date of birth, NHS number and GP practice code of approximately 1.6 million individuals.
The ICO said that when planning the office move, the security of the CD was considered and it was deemed appropriate to store it in the filing cabinet concerned.
Although communication was established with the project manager co-ordinating the move, the existence of the CD was not communicated leading to the disposal of the filing cabinet.
It was also found that the team concerned were not up to date with their information governance training and had not accessed relevant guidance on how to dispose of the CD.
Despite efforts to retrieve the filing cabinet once it was discovered missing, the Trust was unable to recover either the cabinet or CD.
But the ICO would not serve an enforcement notice because it was satified with the data controller's compliance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act and that remedial action was taken by the data controller.
Chris McIntosh, CEO of ViaSat UK, said: “While we don't know the full details of how well secured the CD in question was and the ICO's relatively muted reaction suggests that it may well have been protected, to lose 1.6 million patients' details in such a way still strays beyond carelessness and firmly into negligence.
“Whether the CD is lost forever or ends up in the right or wrong hands may still be unknown, but the stark fact is that the personal details of over 2.5 per cent of the UK's population have been lost and could possibly end up used for identity theft.
In this case the ICO has decided that a civil penalty should not apply, even though it singled out the NHS as treading on thin ice with data breaches.”