GPs demand discharge letter improvements to ease workload

Improvements to hospital discharge letters could save every GP in the UK an hour a day, GP leaders believe.

Dr Nigel Watson: discharge letters must improve (photo: Jason H Lancy)
Dr Nigel Watson: discharge letters must improve (photo: Jason H Lancy)

LMCs voted through a raft of motions at the UK LMCs conference last month, warning that many secondary care providers do not address discharge letters and outpatient letters to the appropriate GP.

They warned that not addressing hospital discharge letters to the GP directly is ‘detrimental to patient care’, ‘harms professional relationships’ and risks breaching ‘confidentiality and data protection law’.

Wessex LMCs surveyed GPs in May to see how they thought hospital discharge summaries could be improved. It plans to discuss the results with the 14 provider trusts in Wessex, to improve the letters.

The Wessex GPs called for any discharge letters to be received by the GP on the day of discharge and said it was preferable to be received electronically. They also called for letters to be typed so that their contents are clear.

Wessex LMCs chief executive Dr Nigel Watson said: ‘This is about having a two-way dialogue. It is not about bashing hospitals. Some discharge letters are good.

‘GP workload is at an all-time high. I have been a GP for 26 years and it certainly has never been as intense and as high.

‘In a cash-strapped environment, we need to think how can we give some breathing space to GPs and ease workload. There is a common thread that comes back from GPs and that is about hospital letters and not being able to access named consultants.

‘GPs can spend up to an hour a day chasing information from hospitals. It takes up time and it is frustrating.’

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