College Health Service error in correspondence results in student being put in “physical danger”

The Health Service sent correspondence to the student’s home address against their wishes


The College Health Service has contradicted a student’s instructions not to send any correspondence to their parents’ address, resulting in severe emotional and financial distress for the student.

The student had previously given explicit notification to the College Health Service that any correspondence sent to their home address would likely be opened by their parents and would put the student in “physical danger”. Despite this, a copy of the letter was sent to their parents’ home address in the UK. The letter stated that the student had been referred to the on-campus psychiatry service by a GP with the College Health Service.  

Speaking to Trinity News, the student said that the incident has resulted in them being financially cut off, and has created a “hostile physical and emotional situation with [their] family”.

When the student went to the College Health Service to complain about the incident, they were made to wait for two hours before being seen by administrative staff. The student said that the administrative staff were “[…] very supportive. They were appalled that the doctor would’ve taken the details and used them, and put another extra note in my file to never contact my parents.”

At a subsequent appointment, the student’s GP was said to be flippant about the incident, diverting the blame onto the parents for opening the letter. While the GP apologised, she also seemed unaware as to who was responsible for the incident, saying that it may have been the fault of a College psychiatrist.

Speaking to Trinity News, Dr David McGrath, director of the College Health Service, said that throughout his time in the College Health Service, “we’ve never come across this situation previously, where a referral has gone where it shouldn’t have”. He continued: “In 11 years it’s not a situation that has ever occurred previously […] one-off things can happen.”

He described the situation as “very distressing” for the student, but noted that the letter would never have been addressed to any individual other than the student. He said that if the letter was sent to the parents’ address in contradiction with the students’ wishes, there had been “a clear communication breakdown […] and that’s very disappointing.”

He described this particular incident as “a straightforward, clerical, human error”. According to McGrath, the College Health Service has a system that allows information to be clearly communicated between staff members about individual students, and said that this should have come up as an alert on the system. He said that, had it come up as an alert, there was “no way” it would have been sent to this address, and that “clearly there was a breakdown somewhere along the system”.

The student has since spoken to Senior Tutor Dr Aidan Seery about the incident, who has worked to find financial aid for the student in question, and is due to discuss the situation with the College GP Service to see if an investigation into the incident is possible.