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At the heart of general practice since 1960

GP practices still receive illegible hospital discharge summaries

GP practices are still receiving illegible paper discharge summaries from hospitals, a Welsh NHS inspection body has warned.

Health Inspectorate Wales (HIW) said in an annual report on the state of general practice in Wales that some practices were ‘reporting that they receive paper discharge summaries’ which were 'often illegible and cannot be acted on until practice staff have been able to clarify their meaning’.

Some practices said the more frequent use of electronic summaries had improved the situation somewhat.

The independent healthcare inspector visited 27 practices over the last year and was on the whole positive, particularly about GP staff, saying that ’in every practice we visited we saw staff treating patients with dignity, respect, compassion and kindness’.

But the body also expressed concern about ‘how resilient and sustainable some of the practices we visited were’, due to the current pressures on GPs including ‘difficulties in recruiting GPs, the high volume of patients and continued increased demand for the service’.

Dr Charlotte Jones, chair of the Welsh GPC, said it was 'a concern that the report highlighted the inconsistency in information provided to GPs when patients are discharged from hospital'.

She said: 'This not only increases the already stretched workload of GPs but also hinders the provision of quality care.‘

She added: 'The report highlights some of the ongoing challenges faced by GPs, including increased demand for services, appointment availability and GP vacancies.

'GPs across Wales are dedicated but cannot continue to work under this pressure and deliver the best standard of care to their patients.'

It comes as 20 Welsh GP practices handed their contract back in the last year, including five that closed.

Pulse reported this week that health bosses in Wales are launching a major international and national recruitment campaign to attract more GPs to live and work in Wales, including English GPs.

Readers' comments (8)

  • Illegible, incomplete, un-scannable, inaccurate and late.

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  • Now let's talk about the utter garbage and endless lists of things that the patient DIDNT have that routinely comes out of 111

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  • Not safe for patients.i agree records should be legible,accurate.
    What about GP referrals incomplete,asking the secondary care to sort out the problem. Some even send patients to hospitals without a gp letter.some write over the summary records -Dont even bother to write at the back of the summary letter.Not to mention the crap referrals.I think both primary and secondary care needs serious soul searching.

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  • A friend of mine came out of hospital with a diagnosis of "Kidney Failure", on the discharge documents, when he was actually treated for "Cardiac Failure". This was pointed out to the GP 5 months ago and still no correction or explanation. Seems like multi-organ failure in the NHS organism. The CQC is a virus attacking it and the GMC is a cancer devouring it.

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  • I just got a letter from a Neurology Locum Consultant addressed to ' Doctor X ' - didn't know that literacy levels in NHS had gone to such low levels that NHS Consultants or their Secretaries could not read printed names on GP letters.
    All I had done was to forward a letter from Psychiatrist to the Neurologist as the former wanted patient to be seen by the latter but wanted GP to refer.
    Now I have a problem as the latter wants me to refer back to the former.
    Don't know what next but sure it's not the patient, it's me that'll need the Psychiatrist:)

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  • Send the first 10 illegible letters back to the hospital , with a note that the next 10 will go to the GMC.
    Maybe that will make the idle idiots that wrote them take more care when they hand on care to a colleague .

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  • Problem often arises because of CCG standard for ED to be forwarded within 24 hours of discharge. A better standard might allow (say) up to 72 hours but had to have all appropriate fields completed especially reason for admission, what was done and why and any changes to Meds (and why)

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  • In 1996, in my hospital, no patient was discharged from the ward without a typed, printed, full discharge letter in their hand, including typed TTOs.
    This was a state-run hospital, not anything private, although it was not NHS-Wales.
    It was not difficult, especially if the information inputting to the letters was started on admission day after the ward rounds, and added to as necessary, then all we had to do after taking a discharge decision was to cross-check meds with drugs chart and send one copy to pharmacy, and then print one for patient.
    Just to be safe, a third copy was actually sent to GP in internal post same day, and one saved in the paper hospital records.
    Anything that came in afterwards (histology results, etc) was copy forwarded to GP if necessary, or acted on.
    Our DLs also included actual dates of follow-up arrangements.
    20 years ago !
    Come ON, NHS-IT bods! It has been done already, you don;t even need to reinvent it.

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