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Medical Negligence

Newcastle Hospitals Fail To Send Patient Letters

Following an IT failure across Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which has resulted in thousands of patients not receiving crucial letters, we cover the actions patients can take if they believe they've been affected.

An IT failure across Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has resulted in thousands of patients not receiving crucial letters containing information about their test results, medication and post-discharge instructions. For those awaiting the vital next steps in their treatment this news is extremely concerning and only adds to a patient’s distress.

As a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence, I have summarised the key points for patients and what actions they can take if they believe they’ve been affected by this incident.

Why is this important?

For patients eagerly awaiting test results, being lost to follow-up can be an ordeal filled with anxiety and uncertainty. Often, they are comforted with the adage that ‘no news is good news,’ trusting that they will be contacted if further testing or action is necessary. This can be especially true for those undergoing ongoing tests or surveillance to monitor conditions like polyps or pneumonia recovery. These tests are critical in catching potential issues early and initiating timely treatment.

However, when crucial information doesn’t reach patients, it can have significant consequences. Timely diagnosis is often the key to successful treatment and any delay can mean the difference between a manageable condition and a life-threatening one.

What can patients do if they feel they have been impacted?

Patients who fear they’ve been affected by this IT failure may want to consider the following:

  • Contact their GP: If investigations or follow-up appointments are needed, patients should reach out to their general practitioner (GP) to initiate the appropriate referrals. GPs can help guide patients on their next steps.
  • Speak to PALS (Patient Advice & Liaison): Every Trust has a Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS), which can provide information, support, and guidance to patients. They can be a valuable resource in situations like this.
  • Consult their treating clinician: Patients should communicate with their treating clinician if they have concerns or questions about their healthcare. Clinicians can offer insights and potentially expedite necessary tests or treatments.

Newcastle Hospitals are working to rectify the incident, but it’s not yet clear if a dedicated team has been established to arrange appointments and investigations or if additional capacity has been allocated to cater to patients requiring urgent tests.

Contacting a specialist solicitor

Patients who believe their diagnosis has been delayed due to being ‘lost to follow-up’ should consider consulting a specialist solicitor like the team here at Been Let Down. In such cases, it’s crucial to establish two key points:

  • Substandard treatment: There must be evidence that the treatment received was not acceptable.
  • Sustained injury: It must be proven that, on balance, the patient has suffered an injury or their condition has worsened as a result of any delay.

What about time limits to making a claim?

The IT failure has persisted since 2018. Whilst initial appointments or investigations may have taken place more than 3 years ago, there’s potential to rely on a patient’s “date of knowledge” if they were unaware of their diagnosis or the need for additional testing until more recently. This offers some hope for individuals who may have experienced delays outside of the usual 3-year time limit to bring a claim. If you believe that you have been impacted by this, please contact us today.

Is this an isolated incident?

Regrettably, incidents like the one in Newcastle are not isolated. Earlier this year, over 50,000 letters from the Mid and South Essex Foundation Trust weren’t delivered to local GPs due to an IT glitch. Such occurrences highlight the critical importance of maintaining robust IT systems in healthcare to ensure patient safety.

In the current context of clearing the pandemic backlog, IT failures and Doctors’ strikes, it’s crucial for patients to be proactive in seeking the care they need and exploring legal options if they believe they’ve been harmed. Remember, your health is invaluable, and you deserve the best possible care, even in the face of system failures.

We’re here to help

At Been Let Down, we are here to support patients who have suffered due to medical negligence. Our commitment is to ensure that justice is served and those affected receive the support and compensation they deserve.

Please contact us if you have concerns about your healthcare and the impact of IT failures on the quality of your medical care. Call us free on 0800 234 3234  and a member of our expert team will take you through the next steps.

Contact us today

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