The Countess of Chester invests to meet national service targets for GP communications

The Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has introduced new software to help it meet new demands from Primary Care for shorter turnaround times with clinical correspondence.

According to the new national service targets set by the Standard NHS Contract for Acute Services, all Secondary Healthcare Trusts must, by March 2009, deliver discharge documentation to GPs within 72 hours of a patient leaving hospital. The target turnaround will reduce to 24 hours by April 2011.

The system from Medisec Software gives the Countess of Chester Trust accurate reporting of when clinical correspondence has been delivered to GPs, helping to identify areas for improvement.

Margaret Cosens, IM&T Programme Manager at Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust explains: “For the first time we can now measure the time between a patient’s discharge and the delivery of the discharge document to GPs; between a patient’s clinic appointment and the clinic letter being delivered.

“We can also compare and contrast how long it is taking different specialities and consultants to generate and issue clinical correspondence.

“By identifying backlogs and areas where action is needed, we have the information at hand to work with our own teams.  We can improve communications with our GP partners and ultimately we will deliver better patient care.”

MD of system developers Medisec Software, Tom Rothwell added: “The Standard Contract is certainly a step in the right direction, but the fact is that most Trusts have no idea about how long it is taking different specialities to generate and issue clinical correspondence, and no way of speeding things up.

“This leaves us with a situation where GPs are still receiving handwritten, often illegible and sometimes inaccurate carbon copies of discharge documentation, with the more detailed notes from the consultant often not arriving until weeks, and sometimes even months, after the patient has been discharged.”

The technology will also help Trusts to avoid the financial penalties being leveraged against them by increasingly powerful PCTs.

Tom continues: “Many PCTs are already penalising Trusts for late delivery of discharge documentation, only agreeing to pay 20% of the due tariff, for example, if a Trust fails to deliver to a GP practice within a pre-agreed time limit. If one hospital guarantees that it will be sending clinical updates on patients within three days, and the other offers a lottery where discharge notes can arrive months after the event, PCTs will simply vote with their feet.”

The software adds to the electronic clinical correspondence system already in place which boosts the efficiency of the hospital’s medical secretarial team by automating most routine tasks, generating clinic attendance and discharge notification letters in less than a minute. 

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