Sending out Letters to Patients


I had a frantic phone call one Friday evening from a good friend – she was in a right panic. She had received a letter from her Surgery (not the one that I worked at) asking her to make an appointment to see the Doctor regarding her recent smear test.

She didn’t know what to do; she had in previous years had abnormal smear results and of course was now thinking the worse.

I tried my best to console her – but she had made her mind up – she convinced herself that the Doctor was calling her in to tell her she had cancer.

As you can imagine she had a very stressful and sleepless weekend.

Monday morning came and she rang the Surgery – at first she was told that there were not appointments that day – but she insisted on seeing the Doctor.

Her appointment was for 11.00 – she was at the surgery at 10.00 – she sat and waited – she was called in to see the Doctor for him to tell her that the smear had not been taken correctly and it would need to be repeated. That was it – it needed to be repeated – more than likely the nurse may  not have taken it correctly.

To say she was over the moon was an understatement. But the worry she went through that weekend was awful.

So, it got me thinking – how many other people received letters at the weekend that could cause worry and concerns – having to wait until Monday morning before speaking to a Health Care Professional? Probably quite a few I should imagine.

So, I spoke to the Partners at our next staff meeting and we all agreed that such letters that were not urgent and could cause concern to patients or their families would be posted on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, hopefully arriving before the weekend and if the patient was concerned at all they could phone or make an appointment to speak to or see a Doctor

If there was an urgent letter that needed to go out on either the Thursday or Friday and the Doctors felt it might cause some concerns one of the Doctors would phone and explain the letter was on its way and if the patient had any concerns they would try to answer their questions.

True Story

I recently spoke to a mum who young son was having various tests done at her local hospital. She received a telephone call from the consultant at 7.30 on a Friday evening asking her how her son was – he asked her if he had got any worse, he asked if he had been with any cattle she was a bit alarmed at the call. He asked her to bring him in again on the Monday for some more blood tests. She admitted that she was a bit concerned – more blood test – but put it to the back of her mind for the weekend. Her and her son had a fun packed weekend which she said was one of the best.

She went with her mum to see the Consultant on the Monday they he gave them the devastating news that her son had cancer – the consultant had known that on the Friday when he spoke to her.

This consultant had given this thought – he wanted to spare her the heartache for a few more days – he knew by telling her the news on the Friday that her world would come crashing down – he knew she was on her own at the time – he spared that until he had her face to face and could go through the options and treatment for her little boy. This is something she is eternally grateful to that Consultant for.

It’s not what we do but how we do it that can have such a big impact on people.

 

Does your Practice send out recall letters on a Friday so the patients will receive them on a Saturday?

Me – the patient


If you have been following my blog you will know that I am passionate about

  • Customer care
  •  communication and
  • Team work

It is vital in any job that you are doing when working with the general public.

When I am out I love to ‘people watch’. It might be in a restaurant, a shop, on a bus or train or in an  Airport – I love to watch how people react and how good people are at giving a good service.

So, it was no different when I had to go into hospital recently for a day procedure – a colonoscopy.

Let me take you through my day and the build up to it and see if you feel that I had “good customer / patient care”.

It started 3 weeks ago when I had to phone the consultants secretary to see if she had received my referral as I had not heard anything –  I phoned 2 times and left 2 messages before she phoned back and confirmed that she had in fact received the letter from my GP and went on to give me a date for my procedure.  I did not find her very helpful and found myself apologising for phoning and bothering her! Why did I feel I needed to do that?

She said that they would phone me the day before to let me know what time I have to book in for my procedure.

It got to 2.30 the Friday before my procedure and I had to phone to see what time they wanted me in – the secretary still did not know – but did phone me back at 4.30 and confirmed that I have to be in for 10.30 the following Monday. Still appeared to be cold and uncaring.

The day before my procedure I had to starve from 08.00 – that was pretty hard going I must say as everywhere I looked there was food being advertised. On the telly, in magazines and every social network that I looked on everyone was talking about the wonderful roast dinners they were about to have. It was a tough day.

I woke up the next morning feeling pretty awful – I had one almighty headache and was sick – perhaps a combination of not eating and taking medication the day before.

I arrived at the hospital at 10.15. I reported at the front desk giving my name and the name of the consultant that I was seeing that day. The receptionist said that I needed to have an ultrasound and would I please go to the 2nd floor.

I went up to the 2nd floor – I went to the nurses’ station. The nurses were obviously busy and flying backwards and forwards – one stopped and asked if she could help me – I said that I had been sent up for an ultrasound – she asked my name and  pointed me towards the waiting area asking me to take a seat. There were 3 other people waiting there too. One by one they went in –  a nurse came along and asked my name – again. I gave it to her and she said that they would be long before someone would call me. The third person went in – and then two more people came into the waiting room. Another nurse came along and asked my name again, the two people who came in after me went in. An hour after I have arrived I was still sitting – feeling quite unwell.

Then a nurse came along and asked my name – for the 4th time! She asked me to go back down to the reception desk. No explanation given.

So, I went back down to the main desk – there was a woman (I now know was a secretary) who promptly said “oh there you are – I had to come down to see if you have arrived”.  No introduction to who she was – no name badge that I could see for myself who she was – but was just ordered to “follow me”.

We then went back up to the 2nd floor – and into a different area – I was asked to take a seat and then was called in for my ultrasound. Up to this point I had no idea where I was going or why. I explained to the secretary that I had in fact been in the hospital for over an hour at this point – but no apologies to the fact that I had been sent to the wrong department in the first place. No conversation – just left sat in silence.

Then, after the ultrasound was done I was asked to go BACK down to the main reception desk and report in there. So, off I went.

Got to the ground floor, the receptionist ticked me off ‘her list’ and I was asked to go to the patients waiting room on the lower level. So off I trotted again. At this point I was getting to know the hospital very well.

I waited 5 minutes and was called  – I booked in and was asked to report to the nursing station on the 2nd floor.

So off I went to the 2nd floor again – getting to know this area pretty well at this point – and reported to the nurses’ station – for the second time that morning.

A nurse took me along to the ward and asked me to get ready and pop myself into bed – she then came along and took my blood pressure and gave me an ECG – how on earth they were not both through the roof at this point still amazes me. I certainly felt pretty stressful.

I waited, and I waited – many had already gone down to have their procedure or had already had it done back up and eating tea and toast – and I waited and I waited – nothing – no one came to tell me anything.

Eventually I was taken down – it was about 4.00. I actually have visions at this point of being told they had run out of time and I would have to come back. I wonder if they have ever had a “sit in” from a patient before – because I certainly was going through this again in a hurry. I vowed I would have stayed there until they had done it come hell or high water.

I came back up from my procedure – I should have been left to rest for an hour – but after half an hour the tea and toast was there in front of me. Not that I was complaining at this point – and boy it tastes as good as those roast dinners people were talking about the previous day. If not better.

I looked around – I was the last one in the ward – the nurse then came up and asked who was picking me up – I told her my husband – she asked me to call him which I did.

The cleaners then started coming in the ward clearing up around me – I really felt like I was in the way.

5.30 came and my husband arrived to pick me up.

I was never so pleased to see him and be going home.

I was more than happy with the procedure and the consultant, but I did feel that communication, and patient care could have been a lot better and perhaps prevented me from feeling so very drained and stressed from it all.

Did I really need to go to all of the different places to book in? Had I gone to the lower ground floor first and booked in then on to the 2nd floor that is where the ultra sound and day ward was – why send patients up and down all over the place.

As a manager I certainly would be looking for a more stress free way of admitting patients into the hospital.

There certainly was a lack of communication, and in areas lack of team work – no one knew what the other teams/departments was doing – something that really needs addressing.

And to top it all this was a private hospital – somehow you would expect a slightly better service that what I got.

Patients Letters for Collection


As a Receptionist/Supervisor how would you deal with the scenario below:

A patient consulted her GP requesting a referral to a gynaecologist for a termination.  She stated in the consultation that she did not want her husband to find out. The GP wrote a referral letter, which was placed in the “for collection” box in reception. For some reason the letter was not collected.

The patient then visited the surgery 3 months later to ask for a letter for the clerk at the Magistrates court, explaining that she could not attend court due to a medical reason. The GP had the letter typed and this was also placed in the box for collection.

The patient’s husband came into the surgery 3 days later to collect the letter to take to the Magistrates court but the wrong letter was given to him. The letter he was given was the one typed 3 months previously for the Gynaecologist.

The husband took the letter to the Magistrates Court. When the Court clerk opened the letter and found it was not for them she handed the open letter back to the husband who then read the letter.

There are several issues here – can you identify what could have happened and what action could have been taken to ensure that it does not happen again.

  • All personal letters should be placed in a sealed envelope.
  • Each envelope should be dated on the back of the envelope and the “collection box” should be checked on a monthly basis.
  • Any letters that are over 4 weeks old should be opened and checked.
  1. Inform their GP that the letter has not been collected so they can follow this up. The GP might need to call the patient and ask if they still need the letter, and according to their reply the necessary action taken.
  2. If your practice asks you to follow the letter up ensure that you record the event. Enter on the patient’s records (or in a separate message log) that you have spoken to the patient about the letter and their response and the action that you have taken. Also remember to date and time the call.
  3. If the letter is not longer required remove the letter from the “collection box” and ensure that you have guidelines on what to do with it. Shred it, or other.
  4. If the letter is required and the patient is going to collect it cross off the first date and add the date you spoke to the patient on the back of the letter to avoid the same process happening again.
  • If you go to the “collection box” and identify two letters there look at the dates on the back of the envelopes, check the patient’s records and see which date corresponds with the envelope. If you are unsure open and check the letter and place it in a new envelope. remembering to add the dates on the back again.
  • In today’s society Patient Confidentiality is vital – we should be asking if we should have actually given such a letter over to her husband. But it was the patients choice to have her husband come in and collect the letter for the Court.
  •  Having it in a sealed envelope is definitely more secure than just handing over the letter without an envelope. So please ensure that all confidential letters are in sealed envelopes.
  • 99% of the time it would be safe to hand over such a letter  – but there is always that 1% that could backfire. But with everyone living such a busy life we always rely on family/friends helping out at such times. If you are in any doubt speak to your Supervisor/Manager or even phone the patient and ask if they are happy for you to give the letter to the person at the desk.
  • The 1% of this backfiring could be that when her husband read the letter which was meant for the Gynaecologist it could have caused a big problem, especially as she had already said she did not want her husband knowing about the termination. This could have led to the surgery being sued for breach of confidentiality.
  • Always think of the 1% and cover yourself as much as you can.

Does your practice have a policy on the collection of letters?

Receptionists Be Aware – You Could Be Heard!


I read an article in the press recently about a woman stating that she had been humiliated by staff at her Doctor’s surgery after they allegedly left a message on her answerphone mocking her looks.

She said that someone from the practice called her and left a message on her phone and said that she could hear a group of woman in the background laughing at her.

Now I do not know the full story –so therefore can not judge – but how awful for her if this had happened.  I  had a similar “complaint” against one of the surgeries that I managed some year ago. Let me share what happened.

I took a telephone call from a woman claiming that when she had phoned the surgery earlier that morning requesting a visit from the Doctor for her sick husband  she said the receptionist had laughed down the phone at her – the receptionist had asked if he could get to the surgery instead of having a home visit. The woman said that her husband was too poorly to come to the surgery and asked if the doctor could call – she said that the receptionist laughed again, and she could hear laughter in the background which she felt was obviously directed at her.

Although I took this complaint seriously I could not believe that any one of my team of receptionists would have done this. I promised the woman that I would investigate the complaint and get back to her.

But there is that rare occasion where you are let down by a member of your team, and if this was the case then the Receptionist or Receptionists  would have been dealt with appropriately.

I went down to reception – I check the visit book to see who had taken the call and entered the visit. I was gobsmacked – the receptionist that took the call was not only one of our most senior receptionist she was one of the most professional  receptionists that the surgery had. I couldn’t believe that she could have done this But I had to investigate this complaint and hear the Receptionists version.

I called her up to my office. I discussed the conversation that I had with the woman – this Receptionist was obviously upset –  and denied that this had happened. We went over the call and the Receptionist filled me in on how the call had gone. It happened that the woman was pretty rude to the Receptionist when she asked if the patient was able to get to surgery (something we did when patients called for a visit – as sometimes we could turn a visit into an appointment freeing the Doctors to visit those that could not get to the surgery). The Receptionist said she handled the call in a professional manner and did not retaliate to the woman.

The Receptionists said that once the woman had said her husband was in not fit state to come the surgery she took the visit as she would normally do. She again denied that she had laughed. She was quite upset by this allegation.

I went down to discuss the incident with the rest of the team – as I walked into reception I was greeted with 3 girls standing laughing at a joke that someone had just told. But while they were doing that there was someone directly in front of them on the telephone. Could this have happened earlier on – perhaps the woman had heard background laughter and assumed it was directed at her.

I spoke to the girls, they all agreed with the Receptionist that she had taken the call in a professional manner as she always did – but they did confess that “perhaps” they had been ‘chatting’ at the time. They agreed that morning surgery had just finished and it had been a bit quiet in reception.

I telephoned the woman back – I had to be very careful in how I handled the call as I did not want the woman to think that I was calling her a liar. I asked if maybe she had misunderstood and perhaps had heard some background laughter – something that was not directed at her – she disagreed  – but I did hold my own and said that the receptionist that had taken the call would never had done that – I felt that I had to stand by the Receptionist as I was sure that there had been a misunderstanding and she had heard background laughter.

I assured the woman that I would be speaking to the whole team and raising the issue and I promised her that we would look at our system and every effort would be put in place to ensure that this would not happen again.

I followed up the telephone conversation in a letter again apologising for any upset she might have experienced. I enclosed a complaints form if she felt she needed to take the matter further – I am pleased to say she did not.  I logged the incident in the normal in case this incident might be raised at another time.

This is when I decided to sit on the other side of the desk to see what could be heard from the Reception area and especially for patients that might be on the other end of the telephone.

Please read my blog to see how this exercise was beneficial to me and my team

The Other Side of the Desk http://t.co/ZrJSw0pr

What was learned from this experience is that Reception needs to be kept quiet at all times, laughter can be misunderstood and certain conversation that could be heard in the waiting room by patients could cause upset.

An example of this was a group of Receptionists one morning was discussing a programme on the telly the evening before – it was about a woman who had breast cancer, the girls went into the programme in great details all giving their opinion – and unknown to them there was a patient sitting in the waiting room that has just been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The patient was obviously upset with what she over heard.

So while you want everyone to enjoy their day, and have a laugh there is a time and place and the main Reception area should be kept professional at all times.

At all times you as the Receptionist has a duty to provide the best possible service to your patients and the dignity that they deserve.

Receptionists Be Aware – You Could Be Heard!


I read an article in the press yesterday about a woman stating that she had been humiliated by staff at her Doctor’s surgery after they allegedly left a message on her answerphone mocking her looks.

She said that someone from the practice called her and left a message on her phone and said that she could hear a group of woman in the background laughing at her.

Now I do not know the full story –so therefore can not judge – but how awful for her if this had happened.  I  had a similar “complaint” against one of the surgeries that I managed some year ago. Let me share what happened.

I took a telephone call from a woman claiming that when she had phoned the surgery earlier that morning requesting a visit from the Doctor for her sick husband  she said the receptionist had laughed down the phone at her – the receptionist had asked if he could get to the surgery instead of having a home visit. The woman said that her husband was too poorly to come to the surgery and asked if the doctor could call – she said that the receptionist laughed again, and she could hear laughter in the background which she felt was obviously directed at her.

Although I took this complaint seriously I could not believe that any one of my team of receptionists would have done this. I promised the woman that I would investigate the complaint and get back to her.

But there is that rare occasion where you are let down by a member of your team, and if this was the case then the Receptionist or Receptionists  would have been dealt with appropriately.

I went down to reception – I check the visit book to see who had taken the call and entered the visit. I was gobsmacked – the receptionist that took the call was not only one of our most senior receptionist she was one of the most professional  receptionists that the surgery had. I couldn’t believe that she could have done this But I had to investigate this complaint and hear the Receptionists version.

I called her up to my office. I discussed the conversation that I had with the woman – this Receptionist was obviously upset –  and denied that this had happened. We went over the call and the Receptionist filled me in on how the call had gone. It happened that the woman was pretty rude to the Receptionist when she asked if the patient was able to get to surgery (something we did when patients called for a visit – as sometimes we could turn a visit into an appointment freeing the Doctors to visit those that could not get to the surgery). The Receptionist said she handled the call in a professional manner and did not retaliate to the woman.

The Receptionists said that once the woman had said her husband was in not fit state to come the surgery she took the visit as she would normally do. She again denied that she had laughed. She was quite upset by this allegation.

I went down to discuss the incident with the rest of the team – as I walked into reception I was greeted with 3 girls standing laughing at a joke that someone had just told. But while they were doing that there was someone directly in front of them on the telephone. Could this have happened earlier on – perhaps the woman had heard background laughter and assumed it was directed at her.

I spoke to the girls, they all agreed with the Receptionist that she had taken the call in a professional manner as she always did – but they did confess that “perhaps” they had been having a laugh at the time. They agreed that morning surgery had just finished and it had been a bit quiet in reception.

I telephoned the woman back – I had to be very careful in how I handled the call as I did not want the woman to think that I was calling her a liar. I asked if maybe she had misunderstood and perhaps had heard some background laughter – something that was not directed at her – she disagreed  – but I did hold my own and said that the receptionist that had taken the call would never had done that – I felt that I had to stand by the Receptionist as I was sure that there had been a misunderstanding and she had heard background laughter.

I assured the woman that I would be speaking to the whole team and raising the issue and I promised her that we would look at our system and every effort would be put in place to ensure that this would not happen again.

I followed up the telephone conversation in a letter again apologising for any upset she might have experienced. I enclosed a complaints form if she felt she needed to take the matter further – I am pleased to say she did not.  I logged the incident in the normal in case this incident might be raised at another time.

This is when I decided to sit on the other side of the desk to see what could be heard from the Reception area and especially for patients that might be on the other end of the telephone.

Please read my blog to see how this exercise was beneficial to me and my team

The Other Side of the Desk http://t.co/ZrJSw0pr

What was learned from this experience is that Reception needs to be kept quiet at all times, laughter can be misunderstood and certain conversation that could be heard in the waiting room by patients could cause upset.

An example of this was a group of Receptionists one morning was discussing a programme on the telly the evening before – it was about a woman who had breast cancer, the girls went into the programme in great details all giving their opinion – and unknown to them there was a patient sitting in the waiting room that has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. The patient was obviously upset with what she heard.

So while you want everyone to enjoy their day, and have a laugh there is a time and place and the main Reception area should be kept professional at all times.

At all times you as the Receptionist has a duty to provide the best possible service to your patients and the dignity that they deserve.

A Cry For Help


It was a normal Wednesday morning and it was getting towards lunchtime. There was a Health Visitors Clinic going on at the time and there were mums and dads in the waiting room with their little ones waiting to be seen.  Often this clinic overrun and we would have to close for lunch leaving the Health Visitor to let the patients out of the building.

Most of the doctors had gone out on their visits – there was one just finishing off his paperwork at the back of reception. Some of the receptionists had taken an early lunch, so it was me another receptionist and the Practice Manager who was in her office.

Five minutes before we were due to close the Surgery for lunch a young lad about 23 years of age came up to the reception desk. I could tell that he was very agitated – he asked to see a Doctor.

I knew that the doctor doing his paperwork had visits to do and a full surgery to come back to that afternoon and would not appreciate being asked to see this patient at this point – I felt sure it was not urgent. The Doctor was in the background and could hear the conversation and did not intervene so I felt right in explaining to the young man that there were not doctors available at that time as they were all out on their visits.

I checked on the computer and saw we had a cancellation later on that afternoon for 4.30. I asked the young man if he would like that appointment. He started pacing the reception area cursing and swearing.

He then started to shout and throw his arms around – I could see the patients in the waiting room ushering their little ones towards them. They started looking worried. It was obvious that this patient was getting very aggressive and giving some cause for concern.

At the point the Doctor doing is paperwork picked up his visit sheet and left the building! The other receptionist went to the back of the reception area and telephoned the Health Visitor who came and took the patients in the waiting room into her office.

All of a sudden was alone in the reception area with this young man – who was now getting more angry and aggressive. He was shouting that he needed to see a Doctor and NOW! He then went to rip the telephone off the wall shouting if he didn’t see a Doctor immediately he would go outside and throw himself in front of a car.

He started shouting that he needed to call his girlfriend but did not have any money. He then slammed into the telephone on the wall again.

At this point I had to do something – I was hoping that the other receptionist had gone to the Practice Managers office and they were phoning the police and the duty doctor on call that day. I hoped that no one else would come into the Surgery at that point.

But at this moment in time it was me and him, and I had to avoid any more damage or worse.

The only thing I felt I could do was talk to the young man.

In a firm but soft voice I asked him to come and talk to me – I was thankful for the high reception desk that was between the two of us.  I also stood back so he could not grab me over the desk.

I told him if he stopped I would let him use the reception telephone. He stopped and asked if I would let him use the phone.  I passed the phone over to him and he dialled his girlfriend.

He spoke to her and she obviously calmed him down. The call finished and he handed me back the telephone and said thank you! He was starting to calm down.

I asked him if he was ok. He started crying. He then poured out his troubles – he had been taking drugs and had been trying to come off them and was finding it very difficult. He had a young daughter who he was not allowed to see because of his drug habit and because of her he was trying to be drug free. He had a row with his girlfriend that same morning and she had told him that it was over between them. He had just come to the end of his tether.

He said that he had spoken to his social worker that morning and she was not of much help (I did not go into details) and he felt that everyone was against him, and he needed help. But no one was helping. He felt that he needed drugs to get him thorough this, but he was fighting against it – but said he didn’t know how much longer he could do so he said he was really struggling. He felt by threatening to throw himself under a car that someone might do something to help him. He said that he would do it if it  would get him the help he needed.

I actually started feeling sorry for this young man – he was screaming out for help – I admit not going the right way about it – but it was obvious that he was frightened and very confused at this point.

I started chatting to him (I cannot even remember what the conversation was now) but he seemed to calm right down. I stood there with him until the duty doctor came back and took him into his room.

The police arrived shortly afterwards and after speaking to the duty doctor decided they were not going to arrest the young man.

The doctor admitted the patient into the local drug rehab centre for 2 weeks – the doctor said that the young man was almost at breaking point.

After lunch all was calm and everything back to normal.

Then three weeks later I was out the back doing some admin work when one of my colleagues called me and said that there was a patient at the desk asking for me. I went up to the desk and there was the young man. He  said that he wanted to thank me for all my help when he was in last. He said that all he wanted was someone to listen to him and that I had been the first person to have done that. He apologised for the upset that he might have caused and promised that it would never happen again.

He went on to say that he had got fantastic help and support in the drug rehab centre and the doctor here in the Practice and for that he and his girlfriend were on great terms and he was in the process of agreeing access to seeing his daughter. He was one very happy man.

He then presented me with a box of chocolates.

Whenever that young man came into the surgery from that day on he was always pleasant, friendly and very polite.

Sometimes people just want to be listened to and not judged.

Of course it could have turned out a lot worse. Does your Practice have a protocol on dealing with such an incident? Have your Receptionist had training on dealing difficult situations?

Does your Reception desk have a panic button?

 

 

Patients Letters for Collection


As a Receptionist/Supervisor how would you deal with the scenario below:

 

A patient consulted her GP requesting a referral to a gynaecologist for a termination.  She stated in the consultation that she did not want her husband to find out. The GP wrote a referral letter, which was placed in the “for collection” box in reception. For some reason the letter was not collected.

The patient then visited the surgery 3 months later to ask for a letter for the clerk at the Magistrates court, explaining that she could not attend court due to a medical reason. The GP had the letter typed and this was also placed in the box for collection.

The patient’s husband came into the surgery 3 days later to collect the letter to take to the Magistrates court but the wrong letter was given to him. The letter he was given was the one typed 3 months previously for the Gynaecologist.

The husband took the letter to the Magistrates Court. When the Court clerk opened the letter and found it was not for them she handed the open letter back to the husband who then read the letter.

There are several issues here – can you identify what could have happened and what action could have been taken to ensure that it does not happen again.

  • All personal letters should be placed in a sealed envelope.
  • Each envelope should be dated on the back of the envelope and the “collection box” should be checked on a monthly basis. Any letters that are over 4 weeks old should be opened and checked. If necessary a phone call to the patient to ask if they still need the letter, and according to their reply the necessary action taken
  1. Inform their GP that the letter has not been collected so they can follow this up.
  2. Enter on the patient’s records (or in a separate message log) that you have spoken to the patient about the letter and their response and the action that you have taken. Also remember to date and time the call.
  3. If the letter is not longer required remove the letter from the “collection box” and ensure that you have guidelines on what to do with it. Shred it, or other.
  4. If the letter is required and the patient is going to collect it cross off the first date and add the date you spoke to the patient on the back of the letter to avoid the same process happening again.
  • If you go to the “collection box” and identify two letters there look at the dates on the back of the envelopes, check the patient’s records and see which date corresponds with the envelope. If you are unsure open and check the letter and place it in a new envelope. remembering to add the dates on the back again.
  • In today’s society Patient Confidentiality is vital – we should be asking if we should have actually given such a letter over to her husband.  Having it in a sealed envelope is definitely more secure than just handing over the letter without an envelope. So please ensure that all confidential letters are in sealed envelopes.
  • 99% of the time it would be safe to hand over such a letter  – but there is always that 1% that could backfire. But with everyone living such a busy life we always rely on family/friends helping out at such times. If you are in any doubt speak to your Supervisor/Manager or even phone the patient and ask if they are happy for you to give the letter to the person at the desk.
  • The 1% of this backfiring could be that when her husband read the letter which was meant for the Gynaecologist it could have caused a big problem, especially as she had already said she did not want her husband knowing about the termination. This could have led to the surgery being sued for breach of confidentiality.
  • Always think of the 1% and cover yourself as much as you can.

Does your practice have a policy on the collection of letters?