An investigation has been launched after the confidential health records of more than 38,000 patients at a GP surgery went missing when a computer back-up tape was lost by a courier firm.
Sandown Health Centre on the Isle of Wight sent its computer records to a specialist company to carry out checks on its software.
But the tape, which contains medical records of 38,650 current and past patients, failed to arrive when it was sent back to the Isle of Wight using courier firm City Link.
A spokesman for the Isle of Wight NHS Primary Care Trust explained that the back-up tape was sent away to ensure that it could be used effectively to restore information on the health centre's computer if it was damaged in a fire or other system failure.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "The NHS locally is legally responsible for complying with data protection rules.
"They need to be open about incidents and about the action taken as a result, including action against anyone responsible for breaching our strict data protection rules.
"We recently wrote to all senior health managers reminding them of their responsibilities," she added.