NHS England fingered over failure to forward patient correspondence

Millions wasted and patient harm 'cannot be ruled out'

NHS England is to blame for a backlog of 374,000 items of undelivered clinical correspondence following a move to Capita's Primary Care Services contract, the Public Accounts Committee has concluded today.

The NHS has wasted £2.4m pounds reviewing the handling of misdirected clinical correspondence, after Capita commenced a seven-year contract to provide primary care support services in 2015.

Previously GPs forwarded clinical correspondence to local primary care services centres, but that practise was stopped by NHS England months before the Capita contract started. However, a proportion of GPs erroneously continued to do so after the contract was outsourced to Capita.

However, as the Capita contract did not include redirecting correspondence, all such material arriving at Capita was stored, but not processed.

The committee blamed NHS England for its failure to communicate with GP practices about how they should handle misdirected clinical correspondence

It follows a similar incident in which more than 700,000 patient records went undelivered under the NHS Shared Business Services contract – a joint venture with Steria.

"However, this time it was NHS England which was far too slow to treat the issue seriously and take action," said the committee.

Probing

The body is still assessing nearly 2,000 cases to determine whether there has been any harm to patients as a result and has so far identified two incidents where it cannot be ruled out.

In one case a GP spoke to the patient about a referral that should have taken place. In the other case, the patient is now deceased and NHS England is trying to find the family to inform them of the incident.

PAC head Meg Hillier said: "NHS England was slow to tackle this incident with the regrettable consequence that many patients are still in the dark about potentially critical correspondence.

"Basic administrative efficiency should not be difficult to deliver. The systemic nature of this incident is a big concern and money which should have been spent on patients has instead been spent cleaning up the mess.

"NHS England must move to resolve this definitively and keep us abreast of the progress being made."

The National Audit Office is conducting a separate probe into the £330m seven-year NHS contract with Capita to outsource back-office support for 39,000 GPs, dentists and opticians.

"Failure to deliver key aspects of the end-to-end service, delivered by Capita and other organisations, impacted primary care services and, potentially, put patients at risk of serious harm," it said last month. ®

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