500,000 paper records will be digitised in £5m project at Blackpool Victoria Hospital after missing and 'illegible' documents are linked to five deaths

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More than half a million paper records at the NHS trust running Blackpool Victoria Hospital will be digitised.

Health bosses are spending £5 million so paperwork can be viewed on a computer in what has been called a "major technological transformation".

Footage, posted on social media and shared with The Gazette, showed racks of files stacked up. While most of it appeared in order, the clip showed some files lined up on the floor, next to theatre taps and in boxes behind doors, sparking potential health and fire safety fire issues

Footage, posted on social media and shared with The Gazette, showed racks of files stacked up. While most of it appeared in order, the clip showed some files lined up on the floor, next to theatre taps and in boxes behind doors, sparking potential health and fire safety fire issues

Workers are being brought in to staff a new 'scanning bureau', where industrial-scale machines will be used to convert piles of patient records.

The move comes after a Gazette investigation told how missing and "illegible" records hampered the probes into five patient deaths at the Vic.

Kevin McGee, the chief executive of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The trust has agreed a phased Electronic Patient Record (EPR) implementation strategy which will upgrade and restructure the current health record storage system.

“This strategy includes an electronic document management system (EDMS) which will digitally store and track patient health records.

Tina Tate, 60, of Lowton Road, St Annes, died in June 2018 from multi-organ failure and complications following surgery to remove a tumour, while two underlying conditions were also a factor, her inquest was told.''The inquest, held to look into the exact circumstances of her death, heard how an expert tasked with carrying out an internal review at the Vic was faced with "at times poor and illegible" paper records, while both the review and the inquest were delayed because "clinical records could not be located for some time".

Tina Tate, 60, of Lowton Road, St Annes, died in June 2018 from multi-organ failure and complications following surgery to remove a tumour, while two underlying conditions were also a factor, her inquest was told.''The inquest, held to look into the exact circumstances of her death, heard how an expert tasked with carrying out an internal review at the Vic was faced with "at times poor and illegible" paper records, while both the review and the inquest were delayed because "clinical records could not be located for some time".

“This will improve clinical effectiveness, reduce operational costs, ensure compliance with CQC guidance about records and data management and most importantly boost patient safety and care as it will improve the ability of clinical staff to make decisions based on comprehensive patient history available when the patient arrives at hospital.

“Digitalisation will also mean records will be available concurrently at multiple locations therefore improving the availability of records and accuracy of information accessible quickly to clinicians.’’

The town's coroner Alan Wilson and assistant coroner Tim Holloway wrote to bosses at the Whinney Heys Road hospital to voice their worry that poor paperwork could even lead to more deaths.

READ MORE:: Missing and ‘illegible’ records spark concern after being linked to five deaths at Blackpool Vic

Mr Wilson first raised his concerns in 2017 and said he had "monitored the situation since then" but remained "concerned" record-keeping there "poses a risk of future deaths".

The trust said last year it "would like to apologise for the identified issues" and promised bosses were working on a fix - namely the new record-keeping system.

"The trust currently has an electronic patient record in its emergency department and is finalising plans to deploy this solution to the rest of the organisation," it added.

A year earlier, Vic bosses promised patient records were not at risk of being lost, after a video emerged of thousands of files stored in an old operating theatre.

The footage, posted on social media and shared with The Gazette, showed racks of files stacked up. While most of it appeared in order, the clip showed some files lined up on the floor, next to theatre taps and in boxes behind doors, sparking potential health and fire safety fire issues.

Tim Bennett, the trust's deputy chief executive and finance boss, said at the time that there were more than 450,000 sets of patient notes, plus 400,000 appointments held every year.

"This means that many thousands of patient notes are moved every week, with staff retrieving and re-filing them as needed to support patient care.

"We can assure our patients that notes are held in a safe and secure environment and in an order which allows them to be easily found and distributed where and when needed around the trust sites."

READ MORE:: Blackpool Victoria Hospital bosses' pledge after video emerges showing racks of patient records

Tina Tate, 60, of Lowton Road, St Annes, died in June 2018 from multi-organ failure and complications following surgery to remove a tumour, while two underlying conditions were also a factor, her inquest was told.

The inquest, held to look into the exact circumstances of her death, heard how an expert tasked with carrying out an internal review at the Vic was faced with "at times poor and illegible" paper records, while both the review and the inquest were delayed because "clinical records could not be located for some time".

Mr Wilson said: "Other investigations have been affected by similar issues: a further investigation into the death of [a patient named only as] JS ultimately proceeded in the absence of hospital records, which reportedly went missing after the death and could not be found."

Mr Wilson said he wrote to the hospital three years ago after an inquest was carried out into the death of patient ‘WB’ “in the absence of documentations which the trust was unable to locate”.

Months earlier, the court received a review into the death of patient ‘NM’ “which had been completed in the absence of some of the hospital records, which could not be located.”

Mr Wilson said he did not believe the “quality of the records or the delay in them being located” contributed to Mrs Tate’s death, but warned: “Unless this type of issue is not addressed then risks will occur as a consequence.

“Medical professionals who take over the care of patients from other staff at handover need to be able to familiarise themselves with accessible and legible records.

“When this does not happen the quality of care received by patients can be affected. It seems to me that issues persist as regards the quality of record keeping within the trust and that it would be remiss of me not to raise that concern at this time.”

And Mr Holloway highlighted his own concerns after the inquest into the death of James Fletcher, who was born in Blackpool in October 1990 and lived in a home in Larbreck Avenue, Elswick.

He said "complete records were not provided to the court" despite orders given before the inquest, and said: "It was understood from the trust that complete records were unavailable and yet it transpired on the first day of the inquest that further records were available but had not been found and produced previously.

"I am concerned that the system of record-keeping gives rise to a risk that patients' records, which are material to their ongoing care, will be lost of otherwise inaccessible."

The former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt set the challenge for the NHS to be paperless by 2018.