“Just how easy is it to speak about things that have gone wrong?”, asked health secretary Jeremy Hunt in a speech he made last year about improving transparency and ending the blame culture in the NHS.
Mr Hunt is himself failing badly on this critical benchmark for greater openness. The Guardian this week has revealed that half a million pieces of medical correspondence, including test results and diagnoses for life-threatening conditions like cancer, sat undelivered in a warehouse between 2011 and 2016. Yet it has taken almost a year for the full extent of this failure to emerge.
Mr Hunt was first made aware of the problem in March last year. But he did not inform MPs until July last year, in a 138-word written statement that mentioned neither the scale of the problem nor the potential harm to patients. The incident was confined to a single paragraph buried in the Department of Health’s annual report. While it appears a team was set up in early summer 2016 to look into the problem, much of the undelivered correspondence did not arrive at the GP surgeries of affected patients until November and December last year. No explanation has been offered for why it has taken nine months from Mr Hunt being informed to urgent correspondence finding its way to patients and their doctors. The idea that letters containing test results and diagnoses for life-threatening conditions can go missing for years is a frightening prospect for any NHS patient. According to the government, 500 patients may have suffered serious harm as a result of the missing correspondence.
Source: The Guardian