Concern over patient records leads to an independent audit

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THE patient records of hundreds of Islanders are to be audited by the Royal College of Physicians following concerns about the way they have been handled.

Health officials confirmed yesterday that an audit was already under way, focusing on approximately 500 rheumatology patients.

The Royal College of Physicians was brought in after concerns were raised in a report overseen by Professor Hugo Mascie-Taylor and published last summer.

The independent report highlighted concerns about record-keeping, case management and communication within the rheumatology service, particularly among patients being treated for rheumatoid arthritis.

Medical director Patrick Armstrong said the audit was already under way, and that interviews with clinicians and other health staff would take place later this month.

He said: ‘We are bringing in additional clinical support to ensure we can complete the audit by the end of June and, in the meantime, rheumatology patients should continue to take their medication as prescribed and attend their hospital and doctor appointments as normal. If we need to see any patients in person, we will contact them directly.

‘The purpose of this audit is to make sure that rheumatology patients have the most appropriate care plan and that their treatment is entirely suitable to their individual needs.’

Health Minister Karen Wilson said that reviews of this type were a reflection of the Health Department’s wish to follow best practice, and that the sample size [of 500] would make it possible to establish the scale and seriousness of the issue.

She said: ‘We may well see more reviews in the future, and I see that as a healthy sign of getting insight into how we are performing as a department.’

Deputy Wilson said that rheumatology was one of the areas that had experienced ‘workforce challenges’, with a significant proportion of the workload being carried out by locum staff in recent years.

Some of the concerns that have sparked the audit are understood to have been raised by locum staff.

Mr Armstrong stressed that the audit would involve a review of the service, rather than the work of individual practitioners, adding that a specialist in rheumatology would be taking up a permanent role in July.

In his report, Professor Mascie-Taylor said HCS should adopt a ‘low threshold’ for commissioning objective, fact-finding investigations, with relevant help and support being sought from external sources. He said independent investigations helped to ensure openness and transparency.

Deputy Wilson said there was ‘an important duty of care to all patients’ around issues relating to care or treatment.

‘In this particular case, I have been assured that we will be doing everything we can to review the patients concerned as quickly as possible to give them, and all Islanders, reassurance and confidence in the service,’ she said.

Rheumatology patients wanting further information may contact patient liaison by emailing or calling 443515.

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