Lister chief says sorry after hospital sends letter to Stevenage husband’s late wife

Mike Smith

Mike Smith - Credit: Archant

Hospital chiefs have apologised to a grieving husband after he was sent a letter addressed to his wife six days after she passed away while in their care.

Mike Smith

Mike Smith - Credit: Archant

Mike Smith’s wife Pat, 79, died in April after a long battle with cancer.

Following her death at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital, Mike went on the hospital’s website and cancelled her next appointment – giving the reason as ‘death’.

But days later a letter addressed to his wife said she would have to be referred back to her GP because her hospital appointments had been cancelled twice.

Mike, also 79, wrote to the Lister complaining about the mistake and, after receiving no reply, also contacted Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland.

Mike Smith

Mike Smith - Credit: Archant

Mike, a retired recruitment professional who lives in Codicote, said: “I want an apology. It would only have taken two minutes for somebody to say they would look at our system and make sure it doesn’t happen again, but it has to go through a complicated complaints system which isn’t much better than the system for outpatient appointments.”

Pat had battled cancer for 11 years and had been doing well on chemotherapy drugs, but developed a chest infection before being admitted to hospital.

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Mike said: “You’re never quite prepared for something like this, but for the hospital system to be so inadequate that they don’t realise what they are dealing with just seems wrong.

“Other people are going to have exactly the same experience and I wanted to try to do something to prevent other people from suffering in this way.”

East & North Herts NHS Trust chief executive Nick Carver said this week: “I was very sorry to learn that despite the systems we have in place here at the NHS trust, a letter was sent to Mrs Smith following her recent death.

“Coping with the loss of a loved one is very hard and I’m very sorry that we added to Mr Smith’s concerns at what has been a very difficult time for him and his family.

“Every year, we deal with many hundreds of thousands of patient-related appointments and queries.

“While we know that our patient administration systems can – and will – be improved, there may be occasions when things go wrong.

“Clearly the information of Mrs Smith’s death was not recorded on our systems in a timely enough manner, which has now been addressed and rectified.

“Every complaint the NHS trust receives is investigated thoroughly and in a way that helps prevent such problems happening again wherever possible.

“We have applied the same rigorous approach to Mr Smith’s complaint, which is in the process of being finalised.

“I expect to be writing to him shortly with a full and frank account of what happened and why, as well as the steps taken to put things right.”