Report of First Medical Secretaries’ Meeting

The Wellington Hospital
30th September 2004

After a welcome by the Chairman of the LCA and the CEO of the Wellington Hospital there were two presentations which led into some detailed and interesting questions.

Mrs Pat Jones, a medical secretary with some 30 years experience and working closely with several consultants at the Clementine Churchill Hospital Harrow, Middlesex, gave a witty and informed talk on what it means to be a medical secretary.

She noted that 25 years ago there were fewer patients, good income streams and no bad debts. The situation is now reversed with large numbers of patients, poorer income streams and increasingly bad debts. The demands on the secretary were increasing with more and more bureaucratic problems, coding difficulties and an unfortunate trend of disrespect.

Mrs Jones outlined the person specification of a medical secretary which involves computer skills, tact, patience, hard work and financial acumen.

Dr Abina O’Callaghan, Consultant in Pain Management and Trustee of the LCA, then presented what she thought was wanted from a secretary by the consultant, patient, hospital and insurer. She too stressed the increasing complexity of practice, the need for accuracy and the increasing demands being placed on secretaries whom she described as a vital but undervalued part of a consultants’ private practice.

There followed a detailed question and answer session during which some aspects of insurance cover were discussed.

The six week rule, which covers a number of patients insured under AXA PPP, was causing some concern as there was no way in which secretaries (or their consultants) felt that they could have accurate and up-to-date information. Examples were quoted of patients who had fallen foul of this rule and were obliged then to fund their own treatment, often in difficult circumstances.

This led to further discussion about the insurance companies declared attack on so-called “fraud” in private practice. The Chairman made clear that there was no way that the LCA or anyone could condone fraudulent claims but there were obviously several ways in which coding errors could occur. The vagaries and relative inaccuracy of the coding system and poor communication between hospital, surgeon and anaesthetist were just some examples quoted.

The evening ended with strong support for further events and a dedicated web site and news information service for secretaries.

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