UK: Organ donation preferences of over 400,000 people recorded inaccurately

From the Information Commissioner’s Office:

The organ donation preferences of 444,031 people were recorded inaccurately on the Organ Donation Register (ODR) due to a software error, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said today.

In March 2010 NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), who manage the Register, discovered irregularities between the organ donation information stated on Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) application forms and the information recorded on the ODR. Further investigation revealed that an ODR software error dating back to 1999 had affected the recording of specific organ preferences from the DVLA.

Whilst the vast majority of the data remained accurate, it was discovered that the details of over 400,000 people required correcting, while a number of other patients had to be contacted directly in order to ensure that their original preferences remained intact.

As soon as the error was uncovered an immediate stop was put on all data files received from the DVLA and the NHSBT commissioned a full independent investigation. The NHSBT informed the ICO on 12 April 2010.

Mick Gorrill, Head of Enforcement, said:

“The decision to donate an organ is a significant one and it is important that the preferences of the donors are recorded accurately. In this case errors were made in the recording of the donor’s wishes.

“I welcome the NHSBT’s commitment to correcting the inaccurate data and their willingness to make sure this type of incident does not happen again by introducing a variety of new security measures.”

Alan McDermott, Senior Information Risk Officer at the NHSBT, has signed an undertaking which commits the organisation to being more robust in checking information is accurate. This includes systematic sampling and checking of data for accuracy against source documents, routine cross-referencing, as well as making sure all forms for the collection of data are uniform.

The NHSBT will also continue to write to all new registered entrants to give them an opportunity to report any errors, as well as inviting an external organisation with expertise of running large databases to conduct a review of its proposed new control systems.

A full copy of the undertaking can be viewed here:

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  1. Anonymous - January 22, 2011

    It was thought 21 of those people were actually affected by the software error from the point of view their organs were used or were not according to their preference. I know 21 is 21 too many but could have been a lot worse. Fortunately This was almost a year ago the news that you are reporting, so quite old hat news. The software error has now of course been rectified and last year saw the highest number of registrations due to successful campaigns.

    UK citizen and organ donor

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