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Mail Blunder Puts Hundreds of Patients at Potential Risk

By Principal Lawyer, Clinical Negligence

At least 1,700 patients may have been harmed by a major blunder which saw more than 700,000 pieces of confidential medical correspondence misplaced, according to a new report.

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We act for a number of clients who have suffered harm or lost family members due to a failure to act on test results or recommendations for further referrals and the number of similar cases is likely to escalate as a result of this appalling failure.

The report from the National Audit Office (NAO) found that, as of May 31 this year, a review of the backlog has found 1,788 cases of potential harm to patients. Of these cases, 333 people have since died.

The watchdog’s report is critical of NHS Shared Business Services (SBS), a private firm jointly owned by the Department of Health that delivered letters between hospitals and GP practices and also between GP surgeries.

Many patients will have assumed that there was no need for any further investigation into their condition while requests for urgent action were languishing in a warehouse.

The medical records, which were among documents mistakenly locked away in a warehouse instead of being sent to patients and doctors, included child protection notes, medical treatment plans and letters informing patients of diagnoses.

It is unimaginable that such essential data so integral in patients’ care could be misplaced to this extent. The report also found SBS were aware of the risk to patients in January 2014 but did not tell NHS England for two more years.

A third of GPs have yet to respond about whether unprocessed items sent to them indicate potential harm for patients so while the study says that no cases of actual harm have been identified, it is not known whether this reflects the true picture

Health service providers rely on proper lines of communication so that they can act on test results, commission further investigations and make appropriate referrals. This is all the more pressing when patients are told that no news is good news, and that their GP will be in touch if their results require any further action. 

Many patients will have assumed that there was no need for any further investigation into their condition while requests for urgent action were languishing in a warehouse. It is shocking that healthcare providers missed opportunities to ensure proper follow up.

If you have concerns regarding failed reporting, for a free consultation about a clinical or medical negligence compensation claim call us 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online and we will call you.

Lindsay Holt is a principal lawyer specialising in clinical negligence and healthcare law at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.

Clinical / Medical Negligence, Clinical Negligence Claims, Medical Negligence Claims

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