An urgent review of data security in the National Health Service (NHS) has been ordered after the medical records of thousands of patients were lost, it has been revealed.

The NHS reported a total of 140 security breaches between January and April 2009, which has been confirmed by the Department of Health.

These include medical records stored in computers left in skips or stolen, and passwords taped on encrypted discs with sensitive information.

The information commissioner Richard Thomas has been forced to take action in the last six months against 14 NHS bodies for breaching data regulations.

He has written to the Deparment of Health demanding immediate improvements to the lax treatment of personal data within the NHS.

Thomas plans to send in a team of inspectors to examine how data is protected by hospitals and medical workers across Britain, according to the Press Association.