CONFIDENTIAL medical letters, documents and payroll information have been stored in an unguarded corridor open to the public at Basildon Hospital.

Our reporters were able to stroll into the corridor, off an access road at the back of the hospital, and look through envelopes, including some marked private and confidential.

The Echo also viewed external mail destined for other south Essex health centres, plus internal hospital mail.

We gained entry to the propped-open corridor beneath the renal unit after being alerted by a hospital source who told the Echo confidential documents, including patient medical records, were being stored in the area and could easily be stolen by thieves.

The source said: “All of this material is completely exposed and accessible to anyone.

“These days, when security is so important, here is an appalling disregard for items containing the most personal details of patients, doctors and employees.”

We twice walked in unchallenged at about 8.30pm on Wednesday, and had time to pick up, photograph and film a selection of the envelopes stored in plastic boxes and in-trays on a desk at the end of the corridor.

One of the trays was marked payroll, while others appeared to be for other hospitals, clinics and surgeries, including Orsett, Stanford-le-Hope and Grays.

We also photographed medical supplies stored in the corridor, including unused specimen bottles, a box marked disposable vaginal speculum and publications on prescribing drugs to children.

Our source provided pictures taken earlier at the same desk.

These included private mail to doctors at clinics, such as the Rigg medical centre-east in Tilbury, Robert Prew medical centre, Wickford, a Unison union representative at his home address, some marked strictly confidential, and internal mail to hospital departments, including mental health and a Child Health section.

The source claimed documents contained in the envelopes included letters about children and child health, confidential letters to patients from doctors and their medical records, letters from doctors about HIV patients and packages and parcels containing medication.

The source also claimed the corridor has been left unattended for more than seven years, and that despite strangers previously being asked to leave and the issue being raised, hospital bosses had failed to improve security.

Our source said: “There are long hours during the day when there is nobody around this area, and, of course, after 6pm the place is completely deserted.

“Anybody could gain access to this confidential material, just by walking along a public access road and into an open corridor.”

The source chose to speak out in the wake of recent Government data security scandals, including the child benefit records of 25 million people lost in the post last year, and the memory stick which went missing in August which contained the details of 130,000 criminals.

The source added: “The uninterested attitude of the hospital authorities beggars belief in light of this.”

HOSPITAL bosses have launched an internal investigation and promised security improvements in the wake of our shock revelations.

Hospital chief executive Alan Whittle said: "We are taking this issue very seriously and have launched a thorough investigation.

"These envelopes are internal mail awaiting delivery by our courier service. They are not patient notes, which are kept in a separate secure area.

"But we accept the envelopes may contain information about patient care or staffing issues, which should remain confidential."

The East of England Ambulance Service is contracted by the hospital to run its courier service from the building.

Mr Whittle added: "The courier service is not located in a public part of the hospital, it is in a service area.

However, security in this area could be improved, so to this end we have taken immediate action.

"We do not believe any patient confidentiality has been breached or information has been lost." Yesterday, after notifying the hospital of our findings, our reporters returned to the area, and were still able to reach the entrance to the corridor after walking past medics.

They saw hospital staff moving the documents away from the area. Mark Magrath deputy chief exec, said no senior management were aware of the situation.

He said: "Staff in the area say they raised it, but were not specific about who with. We are now putting locks on the doors."