Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) failed to send out 400,000 digital letters and documents to GPs and patients, some dating back as far as 2000, BBC News reported Saturday. 

The news follows Newcastle University Hospitals’ admission last week that it is reviewing 24,000 documents from their electronic records after a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection in the summer identified a number of patient letters that may never have been sent. 

NUH acknowledged in a statement that nearly 23,000 documents were identified as unsent in 2017.  Anthony May, CEO at NUH, said in a statement: “An issue was identified in 2017 related to the authorisation and issuing of documents from our Medical Office system, which included letters to GPs amongst other documents.

“As a result, a serious incident was declared and a full investigation was undertaken to establish actions in line with the trust’s governance processes at the time.”

The statement continued: “Following a clinically-led process, 22,963 documents related to GP correspondence were identified. GPs were informed, and we worked alongside representatives from primary care to agree which correspondence should be resent, which was completed.

“The Serious Incident Review concluded that no significant patient harm has been identified following the incident.”

The reason for the stark difference between the number of unsent letters cited by the BBC and those referred to by the NUH wasn’t immediately clear, but the news reports suggested the 22,963 documents were those the trust had identified as of highest risk.

As was the case in Newcastle, the BBC reported that the Nottingham problems occurred when letters requiring sign-off were placed in a folder that few staff knew existed.

The BBC report quoted a former employee of the trust discussing how employees struggled with using a new “paperless” system for typing letters, called Medical office. The staff member also criticised a lack of responsibility for the new computer system and insufficient training on the new system.  

NUH is among the least digitally mature trusts in England.  

In the statement, May concluded: “The trust took positive steps to prevent a similar incident happening again, including improved communication and training with staff covering administrative processes and their use of the system, we also introduced prompts and safeguards into the system to prevent further occurrences.

“I know that patients and the public will want to be assured that the investigation carried out in 2017 was thorough and robust. We will therefore undertake a review of the original investigation and take any further action as needed.”