This week it emerged that Capita has wrongly archived 130,000 patient records rather than sending them on to the GPs of newly registered patients. This is the latest in a long chain of failures in its contract to carry out Primary Care Support (PCS) services.

NHS England has stated that there is no evidence of any harm due to the error, but the BMA countered that this judgement was based on only a looking at a small number of records and “the blunder typified the problems that had beset the service since Capita was given the contract.”

In 2018, it was found that Capita had failed to send letters to almost 50,000 patients on the cervical cancer screening programme. As a result, in March 2019, NHS England decided to take the cervical screening programme back in house away from Capita.

An earlier investigation into the contract by the Public Accounts Committee concluded that errors by the company had “potentially… put patients at risk of serious harm” as thousands of GPs, dentists and opticians had been delayed in treating patients. In July 2018 Capita claimed the problems had been ironed out and NHS England said the contract was delivering savings.

In comments to this week report in the BMJ Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee, said, “Capita has consistently proved itself unfit to hold this contract. NHS England has at last listened to the BMA and now plans to bring cervical smear administration back in house. And with this latest blunder they now must urgently do the same for all of these services.”

Capita took over the coordination of primary care support services in September 2015. The contract with NHS England was designed to save £40 million per year by bringing together a previously fragmented service to a single national provider for Primary Care Support England (PCSE). A profile of Capita Support our campaigning journalism

Capita’s bid hinged on making a £21 million per year saving. The contract is worth £330 million over seven years. Capita immediately began centralising support services to three national hubs and implementing a single online ‘portal’ for practices to order supplies and ‘track’ the movement of patient records.

However, since the contract began there has been an never-ending series of problems – ranging from things as mundane as surgeries running out of prescription pads and syringes to far more serious problems with the secure transfer of patient notes around the country, with notes going missing or delivered to the wrong surgery, and women being dropped from the cervical cancer screening programme. The problems encompassed GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists.

A campaign by the GPC (General Practice Council) has been ongoing since early 2016.

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