I was shocked to read in the national press that so many patients were in receipt of an inappropriate leaflet mistakenly sent out by East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust stating that they may have cancer.
I was one of the recipients, and having worked as an outpatients’ sister at a London teaching hospital, I immediately, after studying the correspondence, realised that an administrative error had occurred and duly contacted the Conquest Hospital, Hastings the same day, 18 March 2015.
This error was confirmed and I then requested that a generic letter to be sent out immediately to all patients concerned so that any undue distress and anxiety could be relieved.
I gathered that some patients had been phoning the hospital in some distress.
I was telephoned the next day by a member of the Patient Liaison Department to confirm that no letter would be sent out.
I then formally complained to the Trust as a matter of principle, enlisting the support of Hastings MP, the Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP.
Only last week did a reply arrive on my doorstep from the Trust’s Chief Executive, explaining that the error was down to a third party provider and that measures are being put in place with that provider to prevent such an error happening again.
It is my belief that hospitals have a duty of care to prioritise the well being of patients not only clinically but in all aspects of communications with patients.
It would have taken one person at the Conquest less than half a day’s work to compose a short holding letter and mail it out to those potentially affected by the error, thus alleviating nearly two months unnecessary stress.
Trusts may choose to outsource administration, but please, patients first.