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Capita’s NHS contract under review after patient records blunder

Outsourcer’s health service deal in doubt following the latest in a “litany of failings”, with 160,000 patient records being wrongly archived

The future of Capita’s outsourcing contract with the NHS has been thrown into doubt after GPs across the country were told that 160,000 patient records had been wrongly archived rather than passed on to surgeries.

This is the latest error in the Primary Care Support England programme set up by the supplier four years ago. Criticisms over the level of service date as far back as 2016.

A spokesperson for NHS England said: “The Capita situation is under review.”

The British Medical Association (BMA) called for the insourcing of services under Capita’s responsibility, which include back-office services as well as GP IT services.

Richard Vautrey, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, said Capita had presided over “a litany of failings” and had “consistently proved itself unfit to hold this contract”.

NHS England said in a statement that the latest incident would not result in any harm to patients and that Capita is now “delivering any delayed patient records to the correct GP practices as quickly as possible”.

Capita said the 160,000 records involved in the incident were out of more than six million records moved each year, and 30,000 of them predated its contract with the NHS. The company said no electronic records were affected.

But the BMA noted that the claim that patients have not been affected is based on a sample from just one area of the country, so some people could be at risk.

“Even if no patient has been harmed, we find ourselves having the same conversations about a new Capita failing, and it is completely unacceptable that this is being allowed to happen again,” said Vautrey.

“Ultimately, it will be GP practices, already under pressure from heavy workloads, to bear the brunt of sorting out the mess left behind by Capita, and NHS England must ensure surgeries also receive the support and resources needed to do so.”

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Core NHS systems such as the National Health Application and Infrastructure Services (NHAIS), which is used to identify who to invite for screening, was due to be replaced in 2017 by a new IT system to be implemented by Capita.

NHS England then put that project on hold because it did not have confidence in Capita’s ability to deliver the change safely.

Work around the replacement of the system was then brought back in-house and is not due to be completed until 2020.

This translates to an estimated cost of £14m for maintaining NHAIS in the meantime and a continued risk that more people will not be invited for screening when they should be.

In March this year, Capita was stripped of handling the administration of the NHS cervical screening programme, following late notification of delays in sending out cervical test invitation, reminder and results letters.

At the time, Capita attributed the failings to factors such as shortcomings around the process for uploading, organising and checking data files.

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