SDHB to review its letter-writing system

The Southern District Health Board, which mails about 1800 letters a day to patients, is considering ways to improve their content.

The board’s Hospital Advisory Committee was told this week that most of the 350,000 letters it sent last year were composed using one of almost 1000 letter templates stored on its computer system.

The Canterbury DHB, which recently went through a similar review of its postal policies, only had 20 templates, SDHB quality and governance executive director Gail Thompson said.

Letter writing has been an Achilles heel for the SDHB, which in the past has been asked by the health and disability commissioner to rewrite apology letters deemed inadequate.

Mr Thompson said 28% of the complaints received by the SDHB annually were to do with poor communication, and many of those related to letters.

With so many being sent out, and so many templates in use, letters sometimes used inappropriate language, she said.

"The key thing for us is to recognise the audience for whom the letter is intended, the patient."

Board members raised other anecdotal problems with correspondence, which included letters advising of appointments arriving after the date the patient was meant to be seen, and letters which invited Dunedin residents to attend clinics in Invercargill or vice-versa.

Staff were asked for more details of a planned South Island-wide review of DHB letter writing.

 - Nigel Trainor, formerly of the South Canterbury DHB, has been appointed as the SDHB’s new finance, procurement and facilities executive director.

Two candidates are being considered to fill the strategy, primary and community executive role, replacing the recently departed Lisa Gestro.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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