Microscope

Patient Safety put at risk

Undelivered Mail puts Patient Safety at risk

Patient safety is in the spotlight again with Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt answering questions in Parliament about a significant incident involving undelivered correspondence which may have led to compromises in patient safety.

It has emerged that the problem was first drawn to his attention in March 2016 when a large backlog of unprocessed NHS patient correspondence was identified as languishing in a warehouse.

The numbers are significant with a total of 708,000 items thought to be affected.

When the issue first came to light at the Department of Health, it was identified that 2500 pieces of undelivered correspondence could pose a risk to patients. Further analysis has indicated that of those, there are 537 “live cases” where there may well have been damage to patient’s health.

The data involved included blood test results, cancer screening results and biopsy results, all of which are vital to doctors and patients alike in making decisions regarding future treatment.

The data was mislaid between 2011 and 2016 as a result of delivery arrangements agreed between the Department of Health and an external company called Sopra Steria operated by NHS Shared Business Services (SBS). This service is no longer in operation.

In Parliament, Meg Hillier, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee expressed concern about the way in which the matter had been handled particularly as this had dragged on for nearly a year. She also raised the prospect of compensation being paid to any patient whose health has now suffered as a result of the incident.

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England said

By definition the small number of cases that are left are those we want to chase down. They have had a clinical review initially and now contact was being made with the GP where that is possible to identify”.

However, there has been no official confirmation of the potential impact and whether patients have died as a result of the problem.

As the NHS moves to adopt more and more technology and to outsource services in this way, it is clear that there needs to be proper oversight of third parties involved in delivering services that may impact on patient safety.

Our team of Solicitors at Clarke Willmott are experienced in managing cases of clinical negligence arising as a result of administrative errors and misplaced data. If the issues here affect you or a member of your family please contact our team on 0345 209 1055 or complete an enquiry form.