A hospital trust failed to send out 24,000 letters from senior doctors to patients and their GPs after they became lost in a new computer system, the BBC has learned.
Newcastle Hospitals warned the problem, dating back to 2018, is significant.
The BBC has been told the problems occurred when letters requiring sign-off from a senior doctor were placed into a folder few staff knew existed.
The healthcare regulator has sought urgent assurances over patient safety.
Most of the letters explain what should happen when patients are discharged from hospital. But a significant number of the unsent letters are written by specialist clinics spelling out care that is needed for patients. It means that some crucial tests and results may have been missed by patients.
Staff have been told to record any resulting incidents of patient harm and ensure these are addressed.
Following a routine inspection by the regulator - the Care Quality Commission (CQC) - in the summer, staff at the trust raised concerns about delays in sending out correspondence.
A subsequent review of the trust's consultants revealed that most had unsent letters in their electronic records.
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Source: BBC News, 26 September 2023