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Referral letters fears

Patient safety is being put at risk because letters sent to a referral management centre are 'consistently' going missing, GPs are warning.

Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LMC has received a 'flood' of e-mails from GPs complaining they have been asked to re-send letters days or even hours before an appointment was due.

Ros Winter, LMC secretary, said some practices had reported as many as six or seven letters a week were having to be sent again. 'It's fairly consistent, it's not just happening in one place and it's been happening for quite some time.'

GPs at one practice had been warned a patient would not be seen unless they re-sent the information, Ms Winter added.

Dr Phil Trevail, a GP in Pool, Cornwall, said he feared patients would lose their slot if missing letters were not found.

He said: 'It's inconvenient and extra workload for my staff and potentially raises issues about confidentiality in faxing patient information.'

A spokeswoman for Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust admitted problems had occurred but said it was in 'a small proportion' of appointments. The introduction of Choose and Book later this year should remove the risk of missing letters, she added.

Cornwall LMC has advised GPs to address all referrals to a named consultant and send them by post until the problem is resolved.

Dr Peter Holden, GPC negotiator, said PCTs had to realise their medicolegal responsibility in 'interfering' with the referral process.

He said: 'If they want to interfere, they carry the responsibility for everything that goes wrong.'

GPs having trouble with referral management centres should give seven days' notice that if the problems did not stop they would revert back to the old system, Dr Holden said.

hcrump@cmpinformation.com

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