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Regulator urges trusts to improve discharge summaries

By Nigel Praities

NHS managers have been urged to crackdown on the quality of communication from hospitals to GPs, after major concerns were found after patients are discharged.

The Care Quality Commission investigation into the use of patient information found complaints over discharge summaries were 'common' and called for senior managers at trusts to review the quality of their processes to prevent mistakes.

The report comes weeks after the National Patient Safety Agency urged trusts to urgently review hospital discharge information, after an audit uncovered a string of horror stories about the quality of information being passed to GPs.

The CQC said while there has been an improvement in information governance and security at NHS trusts, there are still problems with how data is stored and transferred between hospitals and GPs.

The regulator suggested trusts audit the percentage of discharge summaries that have the correct patient and hospital data included as part of their assurance procedures.

‘The most common concern we found was the need for hospitals to improve the quality and timeliness of information sent to a patient's GP when they are discharged from hospital.'

'Most GPs who responded to a survey conducted by the NHS Alliance believed that this compromised the safety of patients,' the report said.

The report also urged regulators to take a tough line on failures at trusts in passing on patient information ‘across care pathways' and evaluate how this affects patient care.

CQC chief executive Cynthia Bower said on the release of the report: ‘Healthcare organisations handle huge amounts of personal information about patients and staff every day. It is crucial to the delivery of high quality care that this is done well.'

‘Although there have been improvements in the systems to keep information secure, we are calling for more focus and action on ensuring that personal information is of high quality, that it is shared effectively with the right people, at the right time so that care is truly joined up and tailored to patient's needs.'

A Pulse investigation in May revealed more than a third of trusts had received complaints from GPs over their discharge policies in the past year, and that some practices were waiting four weeks for discharge summaries to come through.

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