Asker’s Medical Centre in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England, made a grave error on December 23 when it sent hundreds of patients a text message that said they had been diagnosed with “aggressive lung cancer with metastases.” This message was intended to be a reminder for patients to fill out a mandatory DS-1500 form in order to receive certain benefits from the hospital. However, instead of the usual “Merry Christmas” greeting from the doctors, patients were shocked to receive the news of their terminal illness via text message.
One patient, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke to the BBC about the incident. They said they initially thought the message might have been a joke, but upon realizing it was serious, they were shocked. They said, “It’s not often I go to the doctor, then out of the blue; it’s cancer. I’m sat there scratching my head thinking, I do smoke; do they know something I don’t?”
Chris Reed, a 58-year-old property developer from Norton, also received the incorrect text message. He said his partner cried upon reading it, and he immediately tried to schedule surgery but was unable to get through due to busy lines.
An hour after the initial message was sent, Asker’s Medical Practice sent out a follow-up message apologizing for the error. The message read, “Please accept our sincere apologies for the previous text message sent. This has been in error. Our message to you should have read: ‘We wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.’ In an emergency, please call NHS 111 or email no-reply.text@NHS.net.”
It is understandable that receiving a message about a terminal illness would be distressing, especially during the holiday season. It is important for hospitals and medical practices to double-check and ensure that the correct information is being sent out to patients. It is also crucial for hospitals to have a plan in place for situations like this to quickly address and correct any mistakes.
In this case, Asker’s Medical Practice eventually sent out a correction and apology, but the damage had already been done. It is important for hospitals to be diligent in their communication with patients, as any errors or misunderstandings can have serious consequences.
It is not clear how many patients received the incorrect message or how it was sent out in the first place. It is possible that there was a mistake in the hospital’s communication system or that the message was sent out to the wrong group of patients. Regardless of the cause, it is imperative for hospitals to have protocols in place to prevent and correct mistakes like this in the future.