According to reports, a hospital trust failed to send out thousands of letters to patients after they were lost in a new computer system.
Newcastle Hospital has cautioned that the problem, which involves approximately 24,000 unsent letters, is serious and has requested immediate reassurance about patient safety.
The BBC said that the majority of the missing letters, which date back to 2018, explain what should happen when patients are discharged from the hospital.
Others are from specialised clinics, outlining the care that patients require.
Staff have now been instructed to document any occurrences of serious harm to patients and ensure that they are addressed.
Following a routine inspection by the regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), in the summer, workers at the trust expressed concerns about correspondence delays.
Following an examination of the trust’s consultants, it was discovered that the majority of them had unsent letters in their e-record account.
The trust states in a letter issued to staff about the problem and obtained by the BBC that letters written by one member of staff must be signed off on by a second doctor before they can be sent.
If that doesn’t happen, letters end up in a consultant’s document folder and remain unsent until they are signed off correctly.
Dr. George Rae, a GP and chairman of the North East BMA Council, stated that the letters would contain “an incredible amount of information.”
‘If you hadn’t received the letters, you wouldn’t have received the findings of scans, X-rays, or blood tests.’
He claimed that if a patient went to the hospital and obtained a serious diagnosis, GPs would be ‘completely oblivious’ of any changes in medication or therapy.
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.
More than 1,200 of these relate to medicine and emergency care. Some letters may be duplicates, or created in error.