A health board has sought to reassure the public that thieves who stole the medical records of 5,400 patients from a GP practice in Northern Ireland are unlikely to be able to access the information.
Hard discs and encrypted DVDs containing the records were stolen from from the Pound Lane surgery, Downpatrick, Co Down.
The records are being recovered manually but the process could take several months, said the South Eastern Health and Social Care Board. However, it added that separate security features on the hard disc drives make it extremely unlikely that thieves could access it, even with specialist computing knowledge and equipment.
Information on the back-up DVDs is encrypted, making it almost impossible for thieves to access it.
A board spokesman said: "The practice and the board have been working to establish whether the stolen information could be retrieved or recovered from other sources. However, this has not proved possible."
The practice had written to patients advising them of the steps being taken and how they can help in having their records restored as soon as possible, and has been working with other healthcare providers to ensure that prescriptions continue to be dispensed.