It will take GPs ‘over a year’ to clear the backlog of work relating to tens of thousands of letters that a hospital trust failed to send.
Over the last few years, 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.
Now the ICB has said that it will take ‘over a year’ for the issue to be solved and that GPs will 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.’
Pulse understands that the unsent letters date back to 2008 and communication from the ICB also explained that the trust became aware in February of ‘an adverse effect of a longstanding programmed feature’ in two of its IT systems.
This meant that letters which were meant to be sent electronically from Southend and Basildon hospitals to named GPs, rather than practices, were not sent when the individual GP retired or was no longer at the practice.
In a letter sent to Rebecca Harris, the MP for Castle Point, in April, ICB system medical director Dr Ronan Fenton said that this is ‘a complex situation which requires considered management’.
He said: ‘The delayed communications will be managed between secondary and primary care starting in the next two weeks and this process will necessarily continue for over a year, led by MSEFT, engaging with primary care with oversight by the ICB.
‘Every effort is being made to ensure that primary care colleagues are not being deliberately over burdened due to this issue and that their expertise is being utilised where offered in order to reduce patient risk and that resource is being provided to make this happen.’
Pulse understands that payment to practices for processing letters is a sliding scale starting at £10 per letter for first 50, then £7 per letter up to 100 then further sliding scale after that.
The trust told Pulse that GPs have been able to ‘feed into plans to resolve this issue and deal with the backlog of letters to come into practices.’
It also said that it plans have been informed by learning from an audit with local practices, liaison with the LMC and from lessons learnt from the management of similar incidents from across the country.
David Walker, chief medical officer at the trust, said: ‘The trust is leading a recovery plan to safely manage a backlog of correspondence.
‘We continue to work with local practices, with support from the Integrated Care Board, to ensure that GP records are updated as soon as possible.’