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Public sector plagues the bereaved with insensitive mail

Bereaved parents sent letters asking them to reserve their deceased child's place at school

Colin Brazier, a Sky News presenter, sadly lost his wife to breast cancer in July this year. A few weeks later she was sent a letter from Hampshire Hospitals inviting her to a breast screening appointment. Mr Brazier shared a picture of the letter on Twitter along with the comment: "I know the NHS is the closest thing we have to a state religion etc., but invitations to breast screening fall on deaf ears to those who've already died of breast cancer."

Hampshire Hospitals responded quickly and apologised publically for the mistake. Mr Brazier was very pragmatic saying"mistakes occur in all monolithic institutions", but added: "It's just something that needs noting when it happens."

This may be the case but in the same week nearly 100 grieving parents received letters from Manchester City Council telling them how to enrol their (deceased) child for a school place in 2019. Sarah Stephens, a recipient of the letter, whose daughter, Violet, passed away two years ago aged 15 months was much less pragmatic than Mr Brazier. She said the letter upset the whole family, serving as a stark reminder of their loss. The letter was first opened by her husband. "My mother-in-law was staying with us and she became very distressed when he showed her the letter after she asked what had upset him. The letter of apology in response was even worse, with the salutation ‘Dear Parent’.

In response Manchester City Council said “our initial investigation shows that a number of such letters may have been sent out in error to families and we're reviewing all our systems to make sure this cannot happen again.”

Mr Brazier is right errors do happen. However, for 95 letters to be sent out offering school places to deceased children is more than a simple mistake.

The fact of the matter is all organisations, whether private or public sector, have a responsibility to their stakeholders to stop communications with or about someone that has passed away.


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