Probe into hospital notes blunder

AN INVESTIGATION is underway after a confidential document containing the personal details and conditions of people on three hospital wards was found in the belongings of a discharged patient.

Anthony Bond

AN INVESTIGATION is underway after a confidential document containing the personal details and conditions of people on three hospital wards was found in the belongings of a discharged patient.

The document, which has been seen by the EADT, contains confidential information on 16 patients on the Claydon, Debenham and Woodbridge wards at Ipswich Hospital.

It shows the full names of the patients, their date of births, and their medical diagnosis.


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Ipswich Hospital last night confirmed that it had launched an investigation and was contacting each of the 16 patients.

The document was found on Tuesday evening by an Ipswich resident, who does not want his full identity revealed, among his 85-year-old mother's belongings. She had returned home following a stay in the hospital.

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He also says that his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, demanded to leave the hospital on Tuesday evening in her night dress after he found a note left on her bed by medical staff saying 'bed block'.

The man, whose first name is Graham, has been left disgusted by his experience and has written to the hospital to demand answers.

The 47-year-old said: “Where things have gone wrong they should be used as a learning point to avoid this happening again in the future.”

Graham's mother was taken to the hospital by paramedics on Friday after she collapsed at her Ipswich home. She was admitted onto a ward and tests were carried out over the weekend. On Tuesday Graham was told that his mother was fine to go home - despite concerns from the family that her pacemaker was not working properly.

But because she suffers from Alzheimer's disease, he told the hospital that she could not go home because a care package was not yet in place. A doctor told the family that it would be okay for her to stay in overnight.

However, when Graham went back to the hospital at 7pm on Tuesday he claims he found a discharge letter on his mother's bed and a note saying 'bed block'.

“I was pretty disgusted,” said Graham. “She is an old lady who was very hard working throughout her life. She is a very intelligent woman who has a degree and she is being treated like this. When I showed my mother the note she just wanted to go home.”

Graham gathered his mum's belongings together and she left the ward in her night gown.

It was on arrival home that Graham noticed the medical document amongst her belongings.

“I was pretty horrified, especially when I saw the details on it,” said Graham. “I think it is appalling because the hospital is in a position of trust. It is not right. Obviously medical staff need to know this information but it should not be left out on a ward for all to see.”

Jan Rowsell, Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman, said it appeared that a member of the clinical team mislaid the document.

“The hospital takes patient data confidentiality extremely seriously and we are dealing with this issue as a matter of priority,” she said. “An internal investigation into the allegations was launched immediately and, led by a senior investigating officer, is now underway. Each of the issues is being looked into in turn and in depth.”

She added: “The list included data that is essential for both good and safe patient care and related to 16 patients. We are immediately reviewing how we make sure that information central to good patient care is also further protected. Again, we'd like to reassure the public that their confidentiality is given the utmost importance. This is a highly regrettable but very rare occurrence.”

Referring to Graham's allegation of the bed-blocking note, Ms Rowsell said: “We do not use the word 'bed block'. Every patient matters and if somebody is delayed then they are delayed for a reason. There was never an issue that this lady was a bed blocker. We will look at this very carefully but we do not recognise the practice of leaving notes like this.”

Suffolk South MP Tim Yeo said: “Great care needs to be taken with patient records and if there has been a breach of security they should review the procedures which led to it.

“The hospital should be mindful of the sensitivities around patient records and respect these and take great care that this kind of breach does not happen again.”

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