This site is intended for health professionals only

Discharge letters one year late

Exclusive: Managers have launched an investigation into administration errors at a hospital trust after GPs received hundreds of discharge letters more than 12 months late.

GP leaders in Manchester LMC called for the investigation after practices received a batch of discharge letters from Pennine Acute Hospital Trust dating back to April and May last year.

The trust, which covers a large area of north Manchester from Oldham to Bury, says it is still investigating the delays, but the LMC claims it was told by the hospital there was a ‘fault with the IT system'.

GPs have written to the trust's medical director demanding a full explanation following fears there could be even more letters lost in the system with major implications for the care of hundreds of patients.

The data delays come after Pulse revealed earlier this year that a hospital trust in London was reviewing the deaths of 25 patients after internal ‘data reporting' issues which meant more than a thousand patients referred for suspected cancer may not have been seen within two weeks.

Dr John Hughes, honorary secretary of Manchester LMC and a GP in Crumpsall, told Pulse a ‘huge dump' of 140 late discharge letters arrived at his practice. Staff then had to trawl through to check that patients – one of whom had cancer – had not suffered as a result.

‘It could have meant that patients' treatment had changed or that they required further investigations and we wouldn't have been aware of it.'

Dr Hughes said at least five local practices had been affected but none had yet found any major problems with patients, as many had since returned to the hospital for follow-up appointments. But he added there had been problems with delays
in receiving discharge letters from the trust for more than 10 years.

He added: ‘We are now two months on from receiving the letters and we still haven't had any information.'

A spokesman for Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said: ‘At the end of June this year local GPs alerted us that they had received excessive numbers of discharge summaries generated via our Automated Letter System.

‘We immediately started an investigation into this. The investigation is ongoing.'

GPC chair and Leeds GP  Dr Richard Vautrey said delayed discharge data is a ‘perennial problem', which he hoped CCGs would finally start to tackle.