Hospital trust apologises and blames IT error for losing 24,000 doctors' letters

26 September 2023, 11:58

Royal Victoria Hospital in Newcastle
Royal Victoria Hospital in Newcastle. Picture: Alamy

By StephenRigley

A hospital trust has blamed an IT error for failing to send out more than 20,000 letters from senior doctors to patients and their GPs - with fears it could have an impact on ongoing care and treatment.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Newcastle Hospitals has apologised "for any anxiety or inconvenience this may cause" as it confirmed documents including discharge summaries and clinic letters may not have been sent out over the last five years.

The Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle
The Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Newcastle fan 'stabbed' in Milan after being 'ambushed by hooded thugs' ahead of Champions League clash

Read More: Gazza reveals Calpol addiction as he breaks down in tears and admits he was 'banned from every chemists in Newcastle'

There are fears the blunder could have an impact on ongoing care and treatment.

Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is being investigated by the Care Quality Commission. A routine inspection found that since 2018 thousands of letters from doctors that needed a sign off from a senior member of staff were left unsent in a folder that no-one knew existed.

Reports say the error happened when letters requiring sign-off from a senior doctor were "placed into a folder few staff knew existed."

Many of the unsent letters were from specialist clinics detailing care that needed for patients - meaning tests and results may have been missed by patients.

The trust, which runs the two main hospitals in Newcastle, said it is currently reviewing 24,000 documents but stressed this accounted for less than 0.3% of all patient contacts.

Martin Wilson, the trust’s chief operating officer, said: “We have thoroughly investigated these matters and would like to reassure our patients that we are taking immediate steps to address the issue. We sincerely apologise for any anxiety or inconvenience this may cause.

“Every single patient contact is very important to us and we are working to understand if there has been any impact to ongoing care and treatment. 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 per cent 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.”

Sarah Dronsfield, the CQC’s interim director of operations in the north, said: “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."

She said the trust had submitted an action plan and would update the CQC.