GP practices in Essex have been asked to accept years’ worth of unsent hospital letters without knowledge of what support they will be given, the local medical committee has said.
As previously revealed exclusively by Pulse, over the last few years 53,000 letters from Mid and South Essex Foundation Trust were never delivered to practices in the area.
GPs warned that clinical information was not passed and acted on as a result and the trust said has said ‘administrative and clinical support’ will be given to GPs in dealing with the backlog of information.
However, the LMC has complained that it is as yet unclear what form that will take and in the meantime practices have been asked to commence the catch-up operation.
Essex LMCs chief executive Dr Brian Balmer said that practices have been asked to accept delayed letters ‘without any knowledge of the support available from the trust’.
He told Pulse: ‘We are following this very closely but have not yet seen what trust or ICB support has been developed.
‘Practices are being asked what level of involvement they would like to provide in order to address the backlog, but it is difficult to make such a decision without more information from the ICB.
‘Our fear is that practices may take on a workload which is impractical or more risk than is sensible.’
In an update to practices, Dr Balmer added: ‘This is clearly a serious risk to patients and the management of the problem requires a system wide approach. This must be led by the Trust, assisted by the ICB.’
He also said that the LMC has had ‘limited influence and consultation’ on current plans to manage this risk and practices should therefore be aware of the following:
- Practices will want to assist but ‘must be aware that accepting any responsibility for a solution must be done within an agreed, system-wide, governance programme.’
- At present practices are being asked to accept delayed letters without any knowledge of the support available from the trust.
- Practices should be allowed to choose ‘how much involvement they wish to have’ in managing this risk, but making that assessment is ‘impossible and potentially dangerous in the absence of information about trust plans.’
The LMC also said that practices may want to use the BMA fees calculator in assessing the additional resources they will need in order to perform the work they decide to contribute.
A spokesperson for the trust said: ‘Patients can contact our call centre with any queries, and that number has been advertised and shared with GPs.
‘In terms of the support the trust is providing administrative and clinical support to help GPs deal with situation. All support needed will be given. We are working closely with ICB colleagues to support GP practices with the extra administration. A review on patient impact has begun.’