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GPs may have failed to receive thousands of discharge summaries from a trust

An NHS trust has launched a serious incident investigation after its IT system failed to keep a record of whether 14,600 discharge records were sent to local GPs.

While East and North Herts Hospital NHS Trust has said there is ‘no evidence’ that patients have been harmed, they said the missing records could have requested a further appointment or a test carried out.

Consultants at the trust will manually look through all unsent records, starting with the most recent, to identify outstanding actions.

GP leaders have said the issue will cause ‘extreme anxiety’ for patients and GPs, who will face an influx of work as a result.

A letter, first published in Huffington Post, sent last week from managers at East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust to GPs revealed that ‘14,600 records have been identified where it is not clear on the system whether or not the discharge summary was sent’ following the installation of the Lorenzo patient records system.

The IT system showed ‘initial teething problems’ when it was installed in September 2017 but it was ten months before ‘a thorough investigation revealed that a more systemic problem’ in July 2018.

The letter added that consultants at the trust would manually look through all unsent records, starting with the most recent, to find ‘where an outstanding action is identified and established as not having happened’.

The trust apologised for ‘the potential additional workload this may cause’ for GPs and said it would resend ‘outstanding discharge summaries… in small batches’.

However, BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey, told Pulse: ‘GPs rely on these discharge letters to plan proper care and this is another clear example of an NHS IT failure that has left patients and GPs bearing the brunt.

‘As well as the extreme anxiety this will cause patients, it will also have a clear impact on local GPs’ workloads that must be considered in the trust’s response.’

Last week, health secretary Matt Hancock described trusts’ inability to access GP records as ‘downright dangerous’ as ‘systems need to be able to talk to each other’.

Dr Michael Chilvers, medical director of the Trust said an investigation had been launched and so far ‘there is no evidence that any patients have come to harm’.

He said: ‘The Trust is prioritising the review of discharge summaries for those patients where a follow-up action (such as a further appointment or test being carried out) might have been needed.

He added that the trust ‘will take the lead in getting them sorted – this will include informing any individual patients involved, as well as their GPs’.

The CQC and NHS Improvement have also been informed and both confirmed they were monitoring the trust closely and working with other agencies.

A spokesperson for the CQC said: ‘We will also review any findings from the trust’s own investigation to see if there is any action CQC needs to take.’

DXC Technologies, which manufactures Lorenzo, also declined to comment.

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Readers' comments (12)

  • Not at all surprised. Sometimes we do not get letters until 2-3 months later if at all. The patients did not suffer harm due to GPs holding the fort and cleaning up any hospital shortcomings.

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  • Well if the trust organised any investigations itself instead dumping on GPs none will have been missed...this is why it is unsafe - hand offs always are

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  • No discharge summary being sent or available in a timely manner while it is still relevant has been a longstanding issue for GPs across the country. Picking up the pieces and making sense of whatever appropriate ongoing management is needed ( if any) has sadly become a regular feature of post secondary care GP review. In this case where a large cohort is identified simultaneously it is appropriate that the hospital staff are to undertake the necessary screening of cases concerned. GPs are not community SHO's at the beck and call of hospitals and the adage that investigations are the responsibility of the requesting clinician should stand.

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  • DrDr is right. This should not affect patients because no further referrals/need for tests etc should have been dumped on GPs in the first place.

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  • And presumably we would be litigated in the event of a problem developing because we had incomplete or no information about the patient.... but then we’re used to dealing with such events every day aren’t we?

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  • GPs have failed again !

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  • I cannot believe that NO patients attended their GP after discharge leading to the GP requesting the missing DL, and the hospital realising they had failed to send it, for more than NINE MONTHS.
    STinks of a cover up at the hospital to me!

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  • Near the top of this article is an emblazon "GPs must embrace the latest technology to survive".
    Clearly both a falsehood and a false security! GPs should insist on fully tested and trialled technology before they look at it sceptically!
    And in the meantime, they should hug onto their paper records and old-fashioned technology, like the essential, but much-maligned, Fax machine!

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  • But our new leader tells us technology is the answer to all our problems?

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  • Pity the consultants having to trawl through 14600 records. Would never have happened with paper.

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