Organ donor preferences for 400,000 inaccurate due to software upgrade, Info Commissioner

A software error caused the organ donation preferences of 444,031 people to be recorded inaccurately, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said today.

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A software error caused the organ donation preferences of 444,031 people to be recorded inaccurately, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said today.

In March 2010, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), which manages the Organ Donation Register (ODR), discovered discrepancies between the organ donation information on Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) application forms and the information recorded on the register.

On further investigation, NHSBT found that an ODR software glitch, dating back to 1999, caused a transcription error when information from DVLA was entered onto the NHSBT database.  

As soon as the error was identified, the NHSBT immediately stopped all data files being received from the DVLA, and commissioned an independent investigation. It informed ICO of the issues on 12 April 2010.

Meanwhile, NHSBT wrote to affected patients to clarify the accuracy of their original organ donation preferences.

However, the Department of Health’s (DH) Review of the Organ Donar Register in October 2010, found that 25 families were affected by the error when consenting to organ donation by a deceased family member. 

Alan McDermott, senior information risk officer at the NHSBT has now signed an undertaking with the ICO to ensure that the organisation has more robust information checking processes in place while the existing ODR system is in use. This includes systematic sampling and checking data against source documents, and routine cross-referencing.

The organisation will also be inviting an external organisation with expertise in running large databases to carry out a review of its proposed new control systems.

In addition, in its review, DH recommended that as soon as funding is available, a new replacement ODR should be designed and commissioned.

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