Cost fears over DGH patients letters plan

Eastbourne District General Hospital
Eastbourne District General Hospital

STARTING next year hospitals across East Sussex will embark on the costly exercise of sending 400,000 letters to patients, detailing their treatments.

Despite East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust - which oversees Eastbourne District Hospital (DGH) and the Conquest Hospital in Hastings - casting around for £7.3 million in savings, it will send information about patients’ healthcare, sent between specialists and GPs, to them from April 2011.

Although concerns were raised about the cost and logistics of the process, the trust’s board committed to rolling out the scheme at a meeting on November 24.

Chief executive of the trust Darren Grayson said, “Some clinicians are concerned, and understandably.

“A consequence could be an increase in demand because the more they know the more they ask, but this is something we have to do.

“But the question is how much it would cost and the logistics of how to do it?”

A survey was carried out in the DGH, with 98 per cent of patients saying they want to be sent letters about their care, which is considered best practice.

The board agreed the principle and is costing the plan.

Chief nurse Jane Hentley said, “It’s a costly system, more than people will realise, and there is a logistical issue about the man power required.”

The cost of postage and stationery aside, consultants will have to re-write their letters in layman’s terms for patients to understand and to temper any alarming language in the letters.

This will run up an expensive bill in man hours. Non-executive director Maurice Rumbold said, “The more patients know, the better the situation is and the more responsibility they take for their own healthcare. It does seem to me the information doctors receive is a crucial part of putting that process together and could have benefits for us in years to come.”