A Newcastle hospital trust has failed to send 24,000 electronic patient documents to GPs, including discharge summaries and clinic letters.
The CQC told Pulse it received concerns from Newcastle Hospital Trust staff about ‘risks to patient safety caused by delays in sending out patient correspondence’ following an inspection.
The trust then identified ‘a number of documents’ in their electronic patient record which ‘may not have been sent to GPs’, including discharge summaries and clinic letters, as well as internal documents from the last five years.
Newcastle LMC told Pulse there is a worry this will cause additional unresourced workload for local GP practices.
Newcastle Hospitals’ chief operating officer Martin Wilson said: ‘We are currently reviewing 24,000 documents from our electronic records. This includes both correspondence and internal documents and accounts for less than 0.3% of all our patient contacts.
‘This review is already underway and will be completed as quickly as possible over the next two months. If any concerns are identified, we will inform patients and their GPs directly.
‘We are taking this issue very seriously and are working quickly to put things right.’
The trust also said it has ‘thoroughly investigated these matters’ and reassured patients that they are taking ‘immediate steps to address the issue’.
CQC’s interim director of operations Sarah Dronsfield said: ‘In September 2023, CQC received concerns from trust staff about risks to patient safety caused by delays in sending out patient correspondence.
‘We took immediate action to request further detail from the trust to understand the extent to which people may be at risk, and evidence of the steps being taken to review the impact on patients, ensure people are safe and mitigate any risk of avoidable delays in treatment going forward.’
The trust has submitted an action plan and volunteered to provide weekly updates on its progress against that plan, the CQC said.
Ms Dronsfield added: ‘We have received assurance to address our immediate concerns. However, the trust remains subject to close monitoring, and we can inspect at any time should our monitoring reveal heightened concerns or the need for further action.’
The BBC reported the error was due to a new computer system, but the trust told Pulse it did not say this was not due to an IT fault and it is currently reviewing the documents.
Newcastle LMC chair Dr Alan McCubbin told Pulse that there needs to be recognition of additional administrative workload for GPs caused by the error.
He said: ‘It is a relatively small proportion of the overall number of pieces of correspondence sent by Newcastle Hospitals Trust over the time period that this has happened – overall, I think this is a relatively small proportion of letters, but a very serious incident.
‘The trust are working with primary care colleagues to try and make sure these letters are screened and that any important action is taken – but that does create another big issue with GP workload.
‘We are really struggling like many colleagues around the country and are in a state of crisis, and to have a huge amount of unresourced workload of this kind deposited into our laps is really frustrating.
‘I do worry about the implications – it is very important that there’s a process in place to check these letters to ensure that key actions have been taken.
‘It’s quite possible that in a small proportion of these letters there are unactioned key changes for patients and we need to identify them.
‘To their credit, the trust are aware of the issue and are doing what they can from their point of view.
‘But there needs to be a recognition that this serious error causes serious grief and additional unresourced workload for GP practices who are already on their knees.’
A spokesperson for North East and North Cumbria ICB said: ‘We are aware of the issue and we are working closely with Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
‘The trust is carrying out a comprehensive review of all of these cases and anticipate that this will be concluded soon.
‘Once we have a clearer understanding of the impact, we will be able to make an assessment regarding any potential impact on primary care workloads.’
Earlier this year, Pulse exclusively revealed that 53,000 letters from Mid and South Essex Hospital Trust were never delivered to GP practices in the area due to an ‘IT glitch’.
GPs warned that clinical information was not passed and acted on as a result and the trust had promised ‘administrative and clinical support’ would be given to GPs in dealing with the backlog of information.
Mid and South Essex ICB said that it would take ‘over a year’ for the issue to be solved and that GPs would deal with the letters as they ‘have unique knowledge of individual patients which is not available to secondary care’ and ‘they would know whether the issue was still relevant’.