The confidential medical records of 8,000 patients have been stolen in a break-in at a Didcot health centre.

Details of the burglary, where the medical notes of every person registered at Oak Tree Health Centre, in Ladygrove, were stolen on an encrypted tape, only emerged this week when patients were sent a letter by the practice.

Names, addresses, medical history and details of current and past prescriptions were stolen in the burglary on November 14.

Several hundred pounds in cash was also taken.

Practice manager Barry Coward said: “We consider this to be a very serious incident – and a serious breach of security.

“We have already taken measures to overcome some of the problems.

“We have had risk assessments carried out and the risk of this information being used, we believe, is extremely low.”

Mr Coward added: “We believe it was someone in a position of trust, but definitely not a member of staff or a former member of staff. We believe that person may have thought it was a CCTV tape.”

Cash was stolen from several locked containers in the surgery.

Last night, one patient, a mother-of-two, from Derwent Avenue, who did not want to be named, said: “We’re furious, because we normally take so much care to make sure our identities are safe and then this happens.

“You have to be so careful in this day and age. It makes you question their security.”

Winifred Holliday, 81, of Ladygrove, said: “I’m disgusted. I’m worried about my details.”

John Colthird, landlord of the Ladygrove pub, in Lostock Place, said: “I’m not impressed. These things need to be a lot more secure, but the Government is no better.”

Ladygrove’s town councillor Bill Service, who is a patient at the surgery, said: “This should be the trigger to improving their security.

“There are some unscrupulous people out there who have the technical know-how to decode this information. I’m not overly concerned, I’m just a bit worried. I think people should keep an eye on their personal accounts.”

Mr Coward said he believed the thief entered the building using a set of keys.

He then broke into a key cabinet to gain access to a locked computer room, which contained the back-up tape with the patient records.

A spokesman for Oxfordshire NHS Primary Care Trust said it was unlikely the information could be used, because it was encrypted.

Anyone with information about the break-in should call Didcot police on 08458 505505 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.