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GPs face ‘huge burden’ of copying in patients on all correspondence

GPs may be forced to copy patients in on all correspondence made on their behalf by practices under radical plans being considered by the Welsh government to improve patient safety.

The proposals follow an investigation into the death of Welsh schoolboy, Robbie Powell, that found a breakdown in communication between doctors and the patient had contributed to his death.

The review into the handling of patient records was launched on the 9th October and will consider 12 recommendations made by the Powell investigation earlier this year, including copying in patients, and the parents of children, to all correspondence about their care.

Pulse understands the review will also consider controversial plans to store GP records in such a way that they cannot be altered, moved or lost after a patient has died.

Ministers say the review is designed to improve communication with patients and the integration and safety of care, but GP leaders in Wales have branded the plans ‘insulting’ and unworkable.

Robbie Powell died 22 years ago, aged 10, after a series of errors meant the presence of Addison’s syndrome was not detected or treated.

The Welsh Government said the results of the review will be implemented in 2013/14, but in the meantime, all LHBs are ‘expected to ensure that processes are in place to handle any issues regarding the retrieval and handling of medical records following a patient’s death’.

A spokesperson said: ‘Robbie’s case raises some fundamental points which need to be addressed with a view to ensuring that they have been safeguarded against and adequately safeguarded.’

But Dr David Bailey, GPC Wales chair, said the suggestion that parents, guardians or adult patient should be copied into all correspondence made between clinicians, was a ‘non-starter’.

He said: ‘Copying patients into every correspondence between doctors would result in a huge administrative burden and would require a huge amount of funding.

‘I have nothing against patients being involved with discussions but it isn’t possible for every correspondence to be copied.’

Dr Bailey also described the plans to lock down records after a patient has died were ‘utterly insulting’.

He said: ‘IT systems are now highly sophisticated, with very clear audit trails. It isn’t possible to alter patient records without there being a indication that you have done so.’