Royal Mail is delivering post to neighbourhoods as little as once a fortnight, leaving pockets of the country to become “postal deserts”.
Households have been left without letter deliveries as postal bosses grapple with chronic staff shortages, rock-bottom industrial relations, and the fallout from the biggest shake-up of working practices for a quarter of a century.
Hospital appointments are being missed, speeding or parking fines unwittingly left unpaid, and birthday celebrations hit as some postcodes have been left without mail for weeks on end.
Royal Mail is expected to unveil figures later this week showing that annual delivery performance has sunk to near-record lows, with insiders branding the areas "postal deserts".
Conservative estimates suggest dozens of areas are affected, with some households forced to resort to collecting bundles of post from local sorting offices.
Residents in south-east London have complained on social media that they "seem to only get post every two weeks".
Others say that staff at sorting offices have told them that many staff are off sick or on holiday.
A "lack of postal vans" has been blamed for deliveries grinding to a halt in Dorking, Surrey, residents have claimed.
Yet the situation is far from uniform with adjacent areas in the same postcode experiencing significantly different levels of service. Areas as varied as Bermondsey, Brighton and Salford are all understood to be experiencing issues.
Nick Freeman, the motoring lawyer known as Mr Loophole, said that disruption to the postal deliveries could allow speeding motorists to escape a fine or points on their driving licence.
Laws state that anyone caught speeding must receive a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) within 14 days of the alleged offence.
He advised drivers to “keep the envelope” if and when a speeding ticket does come through the letterbox as a potential way to challenge the allegations in court.
The Parking Appeals Group said that the examples of people receiving County Court Judgments (CCJs) because claim forms issued by private parking companies had not been delivered or not delivered on time.
Some NHS Trusts, already straining under extreme workloads, have now begun phoning patients to remind them of appointments.
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said they had examples of hospital appointment letters arriving after the scheduled appointment time.
She said: “This has consequences as the patient is marked by the hospital as a 'did not attend' and may be discharged back to their GP. That means they go back on the waiting list.”
It comes after workplace reforms included plans to make up to 10,000 Royal Mail staff redundant, automate parcel sorting - much of which is currently done by hand - and delay the start of postal rounds until later in the day to allow mail to be delivered more efficiently.
Royal Mail’s overall performance is expected to have improved over the last three months because of fewer days of industrial action compared with the final quarter of last year, when first-class deliveries were on time just 54pc of the time instead of the 93pc target. Some areas, such as Lerwick, Shetland, hit their target just 12.4pc of the time.
Union leaders representing 115,000 postal workers agreed a pay deal with Royal Mail last month drawing to a close a year-long dispute that featured 18 days of strikes. Boss Simon Thompson is expected to step down in the coming weeks after facing fierce criticism from trade union leaders.
A spokesman for Royal Mail said: “We are committed to improving our performance and accelerating Royal Mail’s transformation in order to restore service levels while meeting the changing requirements of our customers. We’re sorry to any customers who have not received the high standards they expect.
“To improve our quality of service it is vital that we modernise our network and ways of working so that we can more effectively manage the changing mix of mail in our posties’ mailbag.
“Like postal authorities around the world, we have to make changes to adapt to the reality of significant structural declines in letter volumes - which have declined by 25pc since the pandemic - alongside growing demands for parcel deliveries.”