Patients' records have been discovered dumped in an alleyway behind an opticians' shop.

Audun Sjovold, owner of Odin Antiques in Western Road, Brighton, found two bin bags containing about 300 patients' records in nearby Stone Street on Thursday evening.

The bags were left at the back door of Optical Express at 72 to 73 Western Road and contained former patients' names, addresses, dates of birth, hobbies and interests and medical details.

Mr Sjovold tried to contact staff at the shop but the branch was closed so he took them to his branch to stop them falling into the wrong hands.

He said: "I would never leave anything with my personal details out in the street so I was horrified to find so many people's records just out in the street.

"I am really concerned about this. There is information about two or three hundred people, maybe more, and it was left in two green refuse bags where anybody could have found it."

Mr Sjovold was worried crooks could have stolen the documents and used them for identity theft, using another person's details to obtain credit cards and loans.

Adam Munroe, manager at the Vision Express branch, said the papers were for patients who no longer used the branch and they were supposed to be going to the company's head office to be archived.

He said: "There were two sackfuls waiting to be collected but the cleaner thought they were rubbish and put them outside.

"All of the records are for patients who no longer come for eye tests. A lot of them are elderly or deceased.

"They were put in a green waste bag because we didn't have anything else.

"All that's on them is the patients' names, addresses, dates of birth and eyesight test results, which only an optician could understand.

"It's just unfortunate they were put outside."

According to the Credit Industry Fraud Advisory Service, the fastest-growing type of identity theft in Britain involves criminals taking out credit cards and loans using the names and addresses of people who have died.

Sussex Police said it took identity theft victims an average of 60 hours to clear their names. Geoff Foster, of the major fraud unit, said to avoid being ripped off, people should never put receipts in the bin, should refuse to reveal their banking details over the phone and check their bank statements for any transactions they have not made.