Healthcare provider sends flu jab reminders to deceased patients


A health service provider based in Nottingham has issued a formal apology after letters were sent to a number of former patients, now deceased. 

The letters from Nottingham CityCare Partnership who provide a range of at-home and local health services were sent to remind their most vulnerable members to get vaccinated against flu. 

These are typically sent ahead of the winter season, but have been particularly more important this year with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

While understanding the well-meaning intentions of the letter, Hilary Yates said when she first opened the envelope, addressed to her late husband William 'John' Yates, she was "almost in tears". 

Mrs Yates told Nottinghamshire Live: "It was a letter addressed to my husband, advising him to get a flu jab and all about shielding. His NHS number was also there. I rang the service up straight away and said he would definitely not be getting his flu jab this year, and they confirmed that their records state 'deceased'. These sorts of letters are upsetting and it should be investigated.” 

However, to add to the upset caused by the letter it transpires that Mr Yates died in 2014 which was why Mrs Yates was so surprised and distressed to receive the letter.  

She said: "I could possibly understand if it had only been a few months ago, what with everything else going on. Citycare did apologise over the phone to me, but I want to be assured this won't happen again. They said it had just been a mistake, but his notes should be filed away now he is not here, it doesn't make sense. It was all written in the present tense, like he was still a patient with them and that he falls under the vulnerable category." 

In response Nottingham CityCare Partnership chief executive, Lyn Bacon said: "We are deeply sorry for the distress this mistake will have caused, it should not have happened and a thorough investigation is underway to identify what went wrong. We greatly regret that this has accidentally caused upset to loved ones and would like to extend our sincere apologies to anyone who received this letter in error, and have set up a dedicated phone line for anyone affected by this to contact us so we can hear from them.” 

Mistakes do happen. However, the fact that these letters are being sent to individuals that have passed away more than a few months ago shows that the database has not been well maintained. Under GDPR it is now the law to ensure that records are kept us up to date as possible. Whilst health service providers should already have first party deceased data this incident shows that screening all mailing campaigns against a deceased suppression file such as Mortascreen will act as a back stop and insure against future distress caused to people that are bereaved.  

For information about how to access Mortascreen please don’t hesitate to get in touch.