Dear Sir or Madam, You are dead

Last Week The Daily Mail reported two separate incidents of public sector organisations writing to families to say they were sorry to hear about their bereavement. The problem was the two people the letters were about, were very much alive.

Marilyn Mullins’ family in Virginia USA received a card of condolence from the Chaplin of Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital following Mrs Mullins’ three day stay at the hospital six weeks previously. Whilst Manchester City Council sent a pensioner a letter saying he was no longer able to claim council tax support because their records showed he was dead.

Both organisations blamed the incidents on clerical errors and said that the information had not been shared with any other department or company. Let’s hope not.

Now, these cases are a little different to the ones we usually write about. Typically we raise awareness of the issue of sending mail to people that have died, not people that haven’t. But this is just as damaging as the former. And the same underlying issue remains. Data hygiene. Mistakes, of course, happen, however research shows that a stringent data cleansing regime significantly reduces the chance of such errors from occurring. This means reviewing and cleaning the data on a regular and ongoing basis. This is increasingly important due to the introduction of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) as data issues are increasingly under the spotlight and organisations can ill afford to be flagged as being irresponsible with consumer data.