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GPs sent almost 400 incorrect discharge letters

GPs in Scotland were sent almost 400 incorrect discharge letters – wrongly stating that patients had conditions such as cancer or endometriosis – due to a computer glitch.

The glitch was caused by a software update to the national patient information system, Trakcare, by NHS Forth Valley health board.

The health board stated the discharge letters had a coding error, which meant there was an issue within the section of the letter that lists hundreds of pre-existing health conditions. As a result of the glitch, patients were inaccurately told they had a pre-existing condition in their discharge letter.

The Telegraph reported that bosses at the health board have written to patients to correct and apologise for the issue and have clarified that local GPs have also been informed and sent the updated discharge letters.

A spokesperson for NHS Forth Valley explained that not all discharge letters said that patients had comorbidities when they didn’t. Some letters printed out in the wards were accurate, due to the way they were printed out, but some that were automatically posted out showed the error. 

The spokesperson said: ‘Following a software update to our patient information system, we recently identified an issue with the accuracy of the information contained in a small section of the patient discharge letter which lists details of any pre-existing health conditions.

‘The rest of the information in the discharge letter, including details of any diagnosis, treatment, test results or medication during the patient’s stay in hospital was accurate.

‘This issue only affected discharge letters sent to GPs and, in some cases, patients during a short period from 1 to 7 August 2019.

‘We have written to the patients who received a discharge letter during this period to highlight the issue and apologise for any concern this IT error may have caused.

‘Local GPs were also informed and have been sent updated discharge letters to ensure the correct patient information is held on file for future reference.’

Scottish GP committee deputy chair at BMA Scotland Andrew Cowie said: ‘We recognise that the use of high quality IT has the potential to improve patient care right across the NHS in Scotland, but if it is poorly implemented then it can increase the risks to the patient.

‘On that basis, GPs rely on robust IT systems to be in place in order to deliver the best care they can. While we await to full details of this incident, it is vital those responsible for the IT system in question need to establish how it happened, and how it can be avoided in the future.

‘Any error in discharge letters could be entered into the patients’ long term notes, and may result in confusion and even possible suboptimal management of their condition in the future. We would expect that NHS Forth Valley is working with the patients’ GPs to ensure that both the correct discharge letter, and the correct past medical history, are in place for all affected patients.’

It follows the news that BMA are exploring ‘all avenues’ after Capita wrongly archived 160,000 patient records in a processing error. 

Intersystems, which provides Trakcare in Scotland, declined to comment.