Confusing letters prompt review

The Southern District Health Board will try to discover why it has sent confusing letters to patients.

A comprehensive review of the board’s letter-writing processes is expected to delve into working out what the systems are and how they might be fixed.

The review follows a series of complaints to the board about poor communication.

Incidents have included colonoscopy letters containing vastly different timelines for appointments than what was shared with outpatients verbally.

Information about parking, cafe facilities and what hospital patients should expect on arrival has also been variable.

Board members were told this week it was "nigh on impossible" for staff to give an overall assessment of what the letters process was.

"It is understood that the letters process involves multiple systems, staff, processes and approaches," quality and performance improvement manager for clinical governance Patrick O’Connor said in a report before Tuesday’s board meeting.

"There is a general feeling that the letters process does not work smoothly and patients are not being communicated to adequately."

Executive director of quality and clinical governance solutions Gail Thomson said after the meeting the board wanted to ensure all patients received high-quality communication.

"We have identified inconsistencies in the quality of letters we are sending to patients and we are commencing work on a project to look at the issues and come up with recommendations," she said.

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