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Last week I received a letter through the post from Marks and Spencer inviting me to take up some of their insurance offers for my pet albatross. As my albatross has recently died, I had no need for this offer and my immediate thoughts were: ‘This is not meant for me, please remove me from this mailing list.’

We all owe each other a duty to be careful, especially within the NHS

So, do you know what I did? I found out who else was on the same mailing list and I sent a letter to all of them to tell them I should not be on the list, please remove me from the list, or find someone who could remove me from the list. I didn’t think about this for long, or the consequences of my actions (I wish I had because first class stamps are quite expensive), I just did it. That showed them – I don’t think I’ll be hearing from them for a while.

What is it about electronic communication or storage of information that causes sensible people to do silly things? I think it’s just too easy – we can phone from the top of Everest, text from underwater, and Facetime Australia from the back garden. Communication is easy and we take it for granted – at the press of a button we have access to nearly a million people through our magnificent NHS. I’m no IT expert but that’s a powerful tool, one that must be handled carefully, and in the wrong hands could even be dangerous.

I remember in the early 90s driving around Sussex spending the whole weekend on call as a GP trainee, looking for public telephone boxes and keeping well stocked with 2p and 5p pieces so I could answer a bleep, and phone patients on the hop. Life was somehow less hurried, patients were patient, and I’m not sure were any worse off than they are now. On occasions we even had to wait until we got home at night to talk to our loved ones, or we managed to pass a whole week without taking a photograph, or ‘liking’ something. I admit that perhaps I look back at those days with rose tinted spectacles, or at least with a light Valencia filter and 20% vignette applied.

To be honest, the reply all offenders are not just there in the NHS. They are there in every aspect of my inbox – my son’s cricket team being one of the biggest offenders. We all owe each other a duty to be careful, especially within the NHS, and especially as we are all so flippin’ busy and overloaded. Whilst it may be mildly amusing this time, the consequences could have been much more serious if patient information had been involved.

So to help ease communication I’ve set up an NHS WhatsApp group – you’ll get an invite soon but it’s taking a small while to enter everyone’s contact details. Does anyone know if Roslyn is available to help? Maybe I’ll drop her an email.

Richard Cook is a GP partner in Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex. You can follow him on Twitter @drmoderate