Health bosses at loggerheaads

SUFFOLK health bosses are at loggerheads today after the reshuffling and reduction of the number of medical secretaries at Ipswich Hospital.Suffolk Primary Care Trust's chief executive Carole Taylor-Brown has written a confidential letter to her hospital counterpart Andrew Reed about GPs' concerns over the delay in receiving information from clinics and fears lost post could compromise patient care.

SUFFOLK health bosses are at loggerheads today after the reshuffling and reduction of the number of medical secretaries at Ipswich Hospital.

Suffolk Primary Care Trust's chief executive Carole Taylor-Brown has written a confidential letter to her hospital counterpart Andrew Reed about GPs' concerns over the delay in receiving information from clinics and fears lost post could compromise patient care.

Mr Reed today said there were concerns over the backlog and apologised for the disruption.

He said: “I am sorry there is some unhappiness in the hospital and I am sorry there has been some disruption to the normal excellent service. We are working with all the relevant departments to ensure these changes are managed effectively. We hope to resume normal service soon.”


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However, Mrs Taylor-Brown told The Evening Star, which has obtained a leaked copy of SPCT's letter: "As a result of a number of concerns raised by GP practices, I felt it was important to write to the chief executive of the hospital trust to ask for detailed assurances that all matters of patient care are maintained to the standards we expect whilst the organisation is making a change.

“It is proper for the hospital Trust to take action to improve efficiency. Our concern is to ensure standards continue to be upheld.

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“While I do understand concerns of staff and others, I cannot condone the breach of confidentiality in the release of this letter.”

Mr Reed said the new system means patients are now allocated to consultants with the shortest waiting list. He added that the backlog is expected to be cleared in the next two weeks.

Mr Reed said: “There are two difficulties here. One of them is the implementing changes to the way medical secretaries work and the other one is implementing a new computer system. Many of the problems we have experienced with the backlog over the last three or four weeks have been resolved now. It is also important to note that in a number of areas we are seeing that they are running well with the new systems.”

The SPCT's letter tells of “a number of concerns which are emerging apparently as a result of changes to medical secretary arrangements”.

The letter between the two health chiefs follows the re-grading of 95 of the hospital's 134 medical secretaries which many whistleblowers have claimed has caused morale to reach rock-bottom and resulted in delays in opening urgent post, including patients' test results.

The letter, copied to GP practice managers in East Suffolk and other health services, said: “GPs report that they are experiencing delays in receiving information from hospital outpatient clinics which they consider has the potential to compromise patient care.”

One woman who did not want to be named, contacted the Star saying she was a receptionist working at a GP practice, and her practice is still waiting for results that should have been received in February.

She added: “The (hospital's) medical secretaries are now being shared between three or four consultants, whereas before they just worked for one.

“The patients are being told by the hospital they will get the results in two weeks time, but six to eight weeks later, they have still not heard anything. A lot of patients are worried that something is wrong with them because they haven't heard anything.

“It is a shambles and it is all to do with saving money - that is very noticeable from our perspective.”

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for the hospital, said: “The PCT has asked us to investigate these concerns and we will investigate them. We take all concerns extremely seriously and we will be looking into this.”

Have you been affected by the changes at Ipswich Hospital? Contact The Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324788 or e-mail starnews@eveningstar.co.uk.

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