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GPs raise alarm over hospital discharge letter delays

An LMC has written to health secretary Andrew Lansley warning that delays in discharge letters are posing a ‘significant clinical risk’ to patients, after it estimated up to 40% of hospital discharge notes never reach GPs.

North Staffordshire LMC made the direct appeal last month after GPs in the area claimed they were missing key details about patient diagnoses and prescription changes, with many discharge letters from University Hospital North Staffordshire (UHNS) never arriving, and others being severely delayed, despite the hospital launching a new ‘e-discharge’ system in April.

Dr Paul Scott, chair of North Staffordshire LMC and GP in Newcastle-under-Lyme, said the LMC had had no formal response from Mr Lansley, but that the appeal had prompted some improvement from UHNS.

‘There have been issues in the number of letters reaching GPs at all, which have been down at 60% or 70% from A&E, outpatients and hospital discharges, he said. ‘As an LMC we ended up reporting it to Andrew Lansley as we felt it was such a significant clinical risk.’

A spokesperson for UHNS disputed the LMCs’ figures and said that 87% of discharge summaries were sent to GPs within 24 hours, but conceded that ‘A&E had particular difficulties’, with the hospital introducing a new monitoring system for the emergency department last week.