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RCGP chair: ‘I advise patients to take photos of their hospital notes’

The RCGP chair has said consultant notes are taking so long to arrive at GP practices that she is advising patients take photos of them at the hospital to show their GP before the official letter arrives.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said she has asked patients on several occasions to take pictures of their notes from a hospital appointment to show to her during their next GP clinic, instead of ‘waiting five weeks’ for the letter to come through.

She revealed the tactic while speaking during a fringe event at the Labour Party conference last month, which discussed data sharing in the NHS.

Professor Stokes-Lampard said it is an ‘utter frustration’ that the best way to communicate with secondary care staff is to get consultant notes from patients themselves.

She said: ‘I still can’t get letters on from the hospital trusts.

‘It is an utter frustration that my best way of communicating with my secondary care colleagues is to ask my patient to take a photograph of the consultants notes and bring it to my surgery to show you what the plan is and I don’t have to wait five weeks for the letter to come through.’

She added: ‘We know it can be better and we know there are examples out there.’

The RCGP chair said she asks patients to get permisssion from the consultant to take the photo first and, in her experience, consultants have had no objections.

She said it is particularly useful for GPs to see the notes promptly when there has been a change in medication or dosage.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey recently said during the same event that integrated patient records are unintentionally increasing GP workload.

He said the Leeds Care Record – a system that allows GPs and hospitals to share information with each other – has caused hospitals to redirect patients to GP surgeries to explain hospital test results.

Recently, a coroner said discharge letters should be sent to all medical attendants, not just GPs, following the death of a patient.

Elsewhere, new rules requiring GPs to write to coroners about patient deaths have caused concern with some GPs who say it will delay funerals.