Investigation into ‘serious incident’ at East and North Herts NHS Trust concludes

Lister Hospital in Stevenage. Picture: Danny Loo.

Lister Hospital in Stevenage. Picture: Danny Loo. - Credit: Archant

An investigation into an IT error at the East and North Herts NHS Trust which meant up to 14,600 patient discharge summaries may not have been sent to GPs has concluded, but only 2,000 patient records have been checked.

In September last year the NHS trust which runs Stevenage's Lister Hospital and Welwyn Garden City's The New QEII Hospital declared a serious incident after uncovering a major IT blunder which meant patients may have missed medical tests, scans or appointments which would have been detailed in unsent discharge letters.

The NHS trust had installed a new electronic patient record system in 2017 and GPs soon began raising concerns over missing discharge summaries, but the NHS trust's medical director, Michael Chilvers, said "this was not to be unexpected".

The trust eventually launched a review which uncovered a major IT flaw and led to the declaration of a serious incident.

Medical consultants were tasked with reviewing patient records to identify outstanding action.

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Mr Chilvers said: "There was quite a large number where the information was sent to the GPs in a different form, leaving 4,500 patients we were more concerned about.

"We picked three or four different cohorts from different time periods, plus the patients who had died, and these were all reviewed by clinicians.

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"They made assessments from patients' notes and found, of the 2,000 patients they reviewed, nobody had come to harm as a result of the delay.

"We agreed we could spend a lot of time reviewing patient records, but we are very much assured we would get the same result.

"We would much rather put that time into managing current patients and making sure we do the discharge summaries going forward."

But Mr Chilvers admitted there was a further cohort of patients affected from August until the end of 2019 - months after the IT error was discovered and a serious incident declared.

It wasn't until early this year that the process for discharge summaries was changed.

Mr Chilvers said: "We removed a couple of steps where errors could occur and it now takes about 10 minutes instead of 40.

"We are now much more likely to succeed in sending a discharge summary."

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