Hospital aims to cut paper mountain

A PAPER mountain higher than St Edmundsbury Cathedral is being sent out each year to patients in west Suffolk, it has emerged.But the volume of appointment letters dispatched by West Suffolk Hospital Hospitals Trust is to be cut down to size as part of an overhaul of the trust's booking system.

A PAPER mountain higher than St Edmundsbury Cathedral is being sent out each year to patients in west Suffolk, it has emerged.

But the volume of appointment letters dispatched by West Suffolk Hospital Hospitals Trust is to be cut down to size as part of an overhaul of the trust's booking system.

Health chiefs hope using the telephone, rather than sending out multiple letters, will speed up their systems and cut down on the amount of paper used.

Each year, the trust deals with more than 170,000 appointments, most of which involve two or three letters being sent out to patients. This equates to 51m in height, taller than the 45m height of St Edmundsbury Cathedral.


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Patients are now being telephoned to agree the date of their outpatient consultations to improve patient choice and make the appointments system more efficient.

The hospital's dedicated Telephone Appointments Centre will be open from 8.30am until 8pm between Monday and Thursday and from 8.30am to 7.30pm on Fridays.

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Gerald Kelly, the hospital's lead on patient choice, warned patients that it was now more important than ever that family doctors have up-to-date contact details.

“We want to reduce the number of letters we send out and be able to contact patients more often by telephone than by letter. It will considerably improve patient choice and efficiency,” he said.

“Before, we sent out letters asking patients to call us to arrange appointments. We had no idea if the letter had reached the patient and spent a lot of time trying to track down patients who had moved.

“With the new system we ring them shortly after receiving the GP referral, which means that we can ensure patients have a choice of appointment. We rely on having the correct contact details, so would urge people to make sure their GP surgeries have up to date details, as this is the information we use.”

Patients will now get just one letter - instead of two or three - which will confirm the appointment they have agreed on the telephone.

“There are over 170,000 outpatient appointments a year, the changes will improve the service to our patients and if we can cut down the number of letters we are sending out, it will also save the trust money,” said Mr Kelly.

A spokeswoman said the changes were not being made in response to the Royal Mail's introduction of its new postage cost system called Pricing in Proportion.

However the trust is currently looking into alternative ways of communicating with patients and the wider community that does not depend on using traditional mail.

laurence.cawley@eadt.co.uk

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