THOUSANDS of radiology images, including breast screenings, of Dorset patients have been accidentally deleted.

University Hospitals Dorset (UHD) has insisted implications to patients are “very low” after the Echo discovered approximately 5,000 health images taken during a period in 2019 were wiped during a routine archive process.

Images lost include 214 clinical mammograms – an NHS breast screening check using X-rays to look for cancers. Another proportion of the around 5,000 images were test or duplicate images, while some were scans from different hospitals.

The accidental deletion occurred between April and July this year while the images were in the process of being archived.

Dorset Echo: A mammogram screeningA mammogram screening

UHD has stressed the images were simply deleted from their system and that no hacking or breach of the archive system took place. As such, there is no exposure of any personal or identifiable data associated with the images.

Due to the images being from 2019, UHD says many of the patients affected will have had subsequent and more up to date images taken amid ongoing treatment which have not been deleted.

Ruth Williamson, acting chief medical officer, said: “At University Hospitals Dorset, our older radiology images, including mammograms, are regularly archived into long term storage.

“Unfortunately, in a very rare event, a number of images from a brief period in 2019 were accidentally deleted by the system during this moving process.

“Measures have since been put in place to ensure this does not happen again. We have a record of appointments and the outcomes of the reports from the deleted images from this time. Personal information from our patients remains secure and images from prior to and after this period in 2019 are not affected.

Dorset Echo: The Dorset Breast Screening Unit is run by Poole HospitalThe Dorset Breast Screening Unit is run by Poole Hospital (Image: Newsquest)

“University Hospitals Dorset has a culture of openness and honesty and we will be contacting patients who have been identified as being affected by their images being deleted to update them and to reassure them that adverse implications for them are very low.”

NHS England and NHS Improvement has been informed.

Because there was no exposure of personal identifiable data or risk to any individuals affected, the incident has not been reported to the Information Commissioners Office.

An NHS England South West spokesperson said: “We are working with University Hospitals Dorset to address the event where a series of images were accidently deleted.

“Liaising with clinical colleagues at the trust, we have identified those patients affected and are assured that the clinical risk is extremely low, given that we know the results from every scan even where the image no longer exists. We are also ensuring robust measures are put in place to ensure this does not happen again.”