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Sunday, 26 October 2014

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust doctors left patient notes in car boots

MISSING patient records were found in consultants’ car boots and doctors’ offices, among other places, hospital governors have been told.

Patients also had to be sent home from appointments or had their slots re-arranged while their notes were found.

During an update on the storage and availability of medical records at sites run by the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, including Furness General Hospital, Claire Alexander, divisional clinical support services manager, said a great deal of work had been carried out to reduce the number of incidents relating to the availability of notes during appointments.

However, she added: “We have to change the culture in recognising that medical records are the responsibility of everyone in the organisation, and not just our medical record clerks.”

Outpatients’ notes are ‘pulled’ seven days before their appointments by specialist staff who, when they cannot find certain records, begin tracing them back through the trust’s hospitals.

The governors heard how issues finding patients’ notes have also related to the lack of storage room for the ever-increasing number of records.

By law, hospitals have to keep patients’ files for a designated number of years, and the trust ran out of proper storage in 1994, Ms Alexander said.

She said: “We’ve sticky-plastered over the problems, we have our medical records in all sorts of disparate areas, we top up, we top up, and we fill up.”

While the issue has been brought under control thanks to the trust – which is headed by chairman, Sir David Henshaw – finding immediate storage options, the long-term plan is to solve the problem by replacing paper records with an entirely electronic system.

This will be tested first in ophthalmology, gastroenterology and breast surgery, but the long term goal is for this to be standard across the trust’s sites.

Acknowledging the hard work of the teams working to improve the situation, Ms Alexander said: “Records are a problem nationally – it’s not just our trust.”

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