NHS questionnaires sent to dead patients ‘a disgrace’

Questionnaires were sent to more than 50 dead patients by NHS chiefs. Picture: Greg Macvean
Questionnaires were sent to more than 50 dead patients by NHS chiefs. Picture: Greg Macvean
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NHS boards have been condemned for sending questionnaires to dead former patients and asking them to review their hospital stay.

Figures released by the Scottish Government show that more than 50 people who had died while in hospital were later asked to complete a health board satisfaction survey.

We have to bear in mind how upsetting it must be

Labour’s Richard Baker

The details come after the first inpatient experience survey in 2011 in which more than 900 dead people were sent the form.

Patient groups have branded the blunder as “unforgivable” while prompting the government to urgently review what went wrong.

And despite a review, a government spokesman has confirmed that surveys were still being sent to patients who had recently died.

For 2014, it was found that 51 questionnaires were dispatched to dead people in Scotland, 16 of which were sent out in Glasgow, eight in the Grampian area, and three in the Highlands.

A further six were sent from both Tayside and Ayrshire and Arran, and one from Shetland.

The study asked former patients if they were able to spend enough time in hospital with friends and family members. They also asked if they felt confident enough to look after themselves once they had been discharged from hospital, and if they had received enough emotional support from staff.

Last night MSPs and patient groups described the letters to dead patients as “unacceptable”.

Dr Jean Turner of the Scottish Patients Association branded the mistake as “a disgrace” and said it was an “insult to grieving family members”.

She said: “It is appalling that they have been sending these out to people who have recently died.

“This is the age of computers so surely it should make record-checking more efficient, and if they are not sure about a patient then they should not sent it.”

Scottish Labour health spokesman Richard Baker said even one wrongly targeted patient was one too many.

He said: “We have to bear in mind how upsetting it must be for bereaved families to receive correspondence of this nature.

“These things do happen – information is sent out by numerous organisations to people who have passed away.

“However, these are sensitive questions which 51 families should not have to read.

“We have to bear in mind how upsetting it must be.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it was doing “everything possible” to reduce the number.

He said: “We understand that receiving a healthcare survey addressed to someone who has recently died can be upsetting, and we make every effort to prevent this from happening.

“Before we send out survey questionnaires and reminders to patients, we carry out checks on the survey sample to identify any patients that have died.”