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RCGP chair: 'I advise patients to take photos of their hospital notes'

The RCGP chair has said consultant notes are taking so long to arrive at GP practices that she is advising patients take photos of them at the hospital to show their GP before the official letter arrives.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said she has asked patients on several occasions to take pictures of their notes from a hospital appointment to show to her during their next GP clinic, instead of ‘waiting five weeks’ for the letter to come through.

She revealed the tactic while speaking during a fringe event at the Labour Party conference last month, which discussed data sharing in the NHS.

Professor Stokes-Lampard said it is an ‘utter frustration’ that the best way to communicate with secondary care staff is to get consultant notes from patients themselves.

She said: ‘I still can’t get letters on from the hospital trusts.

'It is an utter frustration that my best way of communicating with my secondary care colleagues is to ask my patient to take a photograph of the consultants notes and bring it to my surgery to show you what the plan is and I don’t have to wait five weeks for the letter to come through.'

She added: ‘We know it can be better and we know there are examples out there.’

The RCGP chair said she asks patients to get permisssion from the consultant to take the photo first and, in her experience, consultants have had no objections.

She said it is particularly useful for GPs to see the notes promptly when there has been a change in medication or dosage.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey recently said during the same event that integrated patient records are unintentionally increasing GP workload.

He said the Leeds Care Record - a system that allows GPs and hospitals to share information with each other - has caused hospitals to redirect patients to GP surgeries to explain hospital test results.

Recently, a coroner said discharge letters should be sent to all medical attendants, not just GPs, following the death of a patient.

Elsewhere, new rules requiring GPs to write to coroners about patient deaths have caused concern with some GPs who say it will delay funerals.

Readers' comments (14)

  • The old-fashioned secretaries have long gone in the name of CHANGE. Its now a group of people working in what they call PODS (only ever heard it in sci-fi movies before)that has lead to the dilution of responsibility with its consequences. The person who was responsible for this disasterous change in my trust is now the CEO of another trust.

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  • I wonder which trust she refers too. Care records are going to be a disaster for GPs I think - it will give the excuse for hospitals not to do letters at all but simply tell us to look it up...with that comes all sorts of medico-legal problems as well as workload dumping.

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  • I advise my relatives to do the same from a Medico-Legal standpoint. Too often things have either disappeared or what was written did not reflect what was said.

    Over a decade ago I observed a consultant using dictation software to write her letters straight after the consultation for the majority of straightforward patients. Probably to be printed off and then sent via the post of course - emails would be impossible.

    I am not surprised that this simple, cheap approach to speed up the process has not been taken forward.

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  • Why don't hospital consultation rooms simply install EMIS/system one and forward records via the spine?

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  • Cobblers

    Dictating a letter on a dictaphone or similar was routine in OPD in the early 1980s and the letter would be in your pigeon hole for signing and sending within 48 hours.

    In today's hyperconnected world it just beggars belief that this schism is there at all let alone being tolerated, and work arounds being suggested, by the high and mighty.

    Perhaps bring in people who deal with letters, timetables, patient/theatre lists, calenders, rotas and let's call them, I dunno, medical secretaries? Afford them by sacking a desk jockey, clip board wielding, admindroids.

    Or perhaps a more techie AI medical dictation and printing service and into pigeon hole by 48hrs?

    #Howlingatthemoon
    /too much to ask??

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  • The consultant tells the patient to get their medication from the GP. No dose, frequency or medication name. They will "email" the GP. The patient came the next day. We got the letter 2 months later. There is a lot of work dump on the GP and the RCGP is not helping.

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  • Over 20 years ago, I had to give the patient a printed, typed, discharge letter before they left the ward, with all medications listed.
    Why does it now take weeks, and the medication list (and often diagnosis, if anyone bothered to add it) is mising or incorrect.
    This is really neither progress, nor safe practice or effective handover.
    What is GMC doing about it?

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  • For the chair of the royal college to suggest a fix to this problem of just photographing consultant notes is an utter disgrace and 'utter frustration'. You're the chair of the college. Fix it! Pathetic.

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  • i get the PATIENT to ring the secretary/outpatients/the ward etc etc. if WE ring them x times a day, they think we're a bloody nuisance. if they get x calls a day from separate patients (who take longer to sort out because they don't know the score) they soon get fed up and realise there is a problem. it also makes the patient realise what a marathon and how time consuming it all is. the hospital HATES this - but doesn't take long to fix it. give them the secretaries direct number.

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  • Even when we do get letters we can't read them - the IT / docman is sh*t. Nobody can help apparently.

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