Earlier this year, the computer system used by GPs was found to have been miscalculating patients’ risk of heart attack since 2009.
The blunders mean that those in grave danger of heart attacks and strokes may not have offered cholesterol-lowering drugs, while others with little risk of heart disease were needlessly put on the pills.
In May, medicines regulators issued an alert to 2,500 GP practices warning them to review every patient who might be affected, and to stop using the faulty software until the glitch was resolved.
GPs were also supposed to identify those who had been needlessly put on the drugs for years, despite the fact their likelihood of heart disease was low.
But senior health officials say around half of GP practices have not even looked at the lists of affected patients, in an attempt to review their care.
In an email sent last month, doctors from the British Medical Association (BMA) said the failure to act, following the alert in May, was “difficult to defend”.
In the email, he wrote: “I have spoken today with Dr. Arvind Madan from NHS England, who is concerned that about half of practices affected by this issue have not accessed the lists NHSE has provided them of their affected patients.”
“I would agree with him that practices should be aware of who these patients are and that it would be difficult to defend a practice that had not done so,” he continued, in the email seen by GP magazine Pulse.
The errors stem from a problem in the QRISK2 tool provided by UK IT company TPP.
Current NHS advice is that anyone with a 10 per cent chance of cardiovascular disease within the next decade should be advised to take the cholesterol-busting medication.
Such scores are calculated using software which takes account of factors such as blood pressure, weight, health problems and family medical history.
GPs calculate patients’ risk of having a future heart attack or stroke when they attend the NHS health check offered to all patients aged 40 to 74 every five years.
Earlier this month leading doctors warned that the cholesterol-busting drugs, which cost just pennies, were being rationed in some parts of the party, in measures “born out of desperation”.
The decision to restrict the heart drugs was last night attacked by health watchdogs, who said wider prescribing of the medication had been recommended to stop “lives being destroyed”.
Two years ago, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence cut the “risk threshold” for cholesterol-beating statins in half, meaning than up to 40 per cent of adults are eligible to take the drugs.