Now the NAO has reviewed what exactly happened and found:
The company had become aware of a risk to patients in January 2014, but senior managers had not developed a plan to deal with it or tell the government or NHS England for another two years
A label with “clinical notes” on it had been removed from the room where the files were stored. A manager had apparently said: “You don’t want to advertise what’s in that room”
In August 2015, a member of staff raised concerns the records were being destroyed
NHS SBS finally told NHS England and Department of Health of the problem in March 2016, but neither Parliament nor the public were told
The episode suggested there had been a conflict of interest between the health secretary’s responsibility for the health service as a whole and his department’s position as a shareholder in NHS SBS
NHS England said the company had been “obstructive and unhelpful” when it had tried to investigate issue
The report by the NAO found the cost of dealing with the incident was likely to be in the region of at least £6.6m.
A spokeswoman for NHS SBS acknowledged there had been “failings”.
She added: “We regret this situation and have co-operated fully with the NAO in its investigation.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said it was committed to being transparent over the handling of the issue and was working to make sure this did not happen again.
It said it was given advice not to raise the alarm publicly until it had a better understanding of the problem, concerns about patient safety would always outweigh its role as a shareholder in the company and as yet there had still been no proof of harm to patients.
Individual investigations – overseen by NHS England – are taking place into the 1,788 cases of potential harm identified by GPs who have reviewed the missing notes.
On top of that over 200,000 records have still to be reviewed by GPs in the first place to determine if there was a potential for harm to have happened.
All investigations are expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Dr Richard Vautrey, of the British Medical Association, said the “disastrous” situation should never happen again.
“The handling and transfer of clinical correspondence is a crucial part of how general practice operates, and it’s essential that important information reaches GPs as soon as possible so that they can provide the best possible care to their patients.”
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron described it as “colossal blunder”.
And shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the whole episode was a “scandal” that ministers needed to answer for.
“This is a staggering catalogue of mistakes on this government’s watch,” he added.