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A faulty production line

Information Commissioner to question Capita over missing GP patient records

Exclusive The Information Commissioner is making enquiries after GP have reported patient records going missing as a new service to securely transfer notes around the country continues to malfunction. 

The GPC has also told Pulse it has 'raised governance issues' due to reports from practices that they have been sent the wrong patient records or those of patients who have been recently deceased. 

There was one report that patient records were ‘found in a car park’ although Pulse understands measures may have been taken to prevent this occurring again by providing couriers with more secure storage for transporting records.

It follows reports of the 'systematic failure' of the recently privatised primary care support service, taken over by private firm Capita last September in order to cut costs by 40%. GP practices have reported missing prescription pads and sterile supplies, delayed seniority payments and enhanced service payments.

NHS England – who commissions the new service - admitted to Pulse that there were ‘transition issues’ that need to be fixed, while Capita said it had been tasked with ‘transforming’ a previously ‘fragmented’ system, and that initial teething problems were inevitable.

The GPC has asked for GP practices to be compensated for the disruption, and Pulse has now learnt that a list of issues with a new secure patient record transport service have also been submitted to NHS England.

Since February, Capita has contracted CitySprint, a courier service, to move patient records, in plastic bags sealed by practices.

The GPC's lead on the issue, Dr Ian Hume, told Pulse: 'We have raised governance issues, and raised that we have heard similar stories.

'When they started they didn’t have containers to put it [notes] in, now they’ve issued CitySprint with containers so you have boxes which can be sealed. So the CitySprint driver comes in with a sealed box, you fill it up and that’s sealed up so it won’t fall over. Rather than the story we had of somebody walking out with a bundle of notes in their hand, who has dropped some in the carpark.'

He added: 'My advice is if a practice receives the wrong set of notes, then this needs to be returned to Primary Care Support England via Capita, and it needs to be reported officially as an information governance breach.’

Dr Hume added that the information governance issues did not stop at records going astray, but that practices are also complaining about courier drivers not carrying ID or properly signing for records.

Peter Harrison, a practice manager at the Milton Surgery in Weston-super-Mare said his practice received 26 correct records in one week, some who 'never had any links with the local area at all' and some 'registered with practices far away'. He said that he also received records for 'two dead patients'.

A spokesperson for the Information Commissioner's Office told Pulse: 'The ICO has been made aware of concerns around the process for moving GP patient records within England, and is making enquiries. '

Pulse has already reported that practices previously used to twice-weekly collections had waited as long as five weeks without a pickup when the service transferred.

NHS England said that 'information governance is taken very seriously' but that 'Capita are in the process of delivering a range of changes to primary care support services which are designed to make services more efficient, more reliable and ultimately better for GP practices'.

A spokesperson said: 'We will continue to work closely to monitor, review progress and investigate any issues raised by users... reported issues are routinely logged and investigated to determine root causes and the appropriate remedial action in line with NHS England information governance procedures.’

Capita stressed that 'all of our courier service staff have mandatory ID and nothing should be handed over unless ID is presented'.

A spokesperson said: 'We take information governance very seriously. Any issues reported to us or NHS England would be investigated in accordance with NHS England’s information governance process.'

A CitySprint spokesperson said: 'We are working closely with Capita to introduce a new, secure weekly collection service for medical records for all GP practices across England.

'All CitySprint couriers carry mandatory ID and nothing should be handed over unless ID is presented. We take information governance seriously and would urge anyone with concerns to report them through the proper process.'

Story changed 11:20, 26 May. The story originally said '26 incorrect records'. It meant to say 'correct records'.

Readers' comments (11)

  • Crapita strikes again!

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  • Astounding.

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  • Too funny.
    At least that "previously ‘fragmented’ system" worked!

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  • Its always the same suspects like Capita, G4, Serco et al that get these big government contracts no matter how much they screw-up. Where's the accountability? In the meantime general practice picks-up the pieces, complaints and by stealth, some of the costs that are no doubt part of the "40% saving".

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  • Vinci Ho

    So while CQC is so on about information governance , training on that , Caldicott principles and Data Protection Act etc as far as a GP practice is concerned , NHSE and the government appointed an organisation breaking all rules(actually broken the law??). Where is the Health Secretary with his 'pause' button for this dangerously flawed hypocrisy ???

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  • I contacted the ICO 2 weeks ago to report this on behalf of the Nottingham City GP Alliance (NCGPA). We will shortly be providing them with a full report from all the evidence of IG breaches reported by our member practices.

    On a daily basis we are receiving reports of notes being delivered to the wrong practice, or being returned to the patients previous practice.

    Today we had a report of notes being returned to the previous practice for the second time.

    I can only assume that the system in use at the sorting centres is not connected to the spine, or else their working practices are simply not fit for purpose.

    In the meantime, practices are having to treat newly registered patients without full medical records.

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  • The dumbest tendering - flaws everywhere. Today our courier came and said 'sorry my truck is full'. Keep your 85 patient notes for now in that big dirty sack we gave you. Fantastic.

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  • Every practice should report every single wrong set of records to the ICO as a data breach, and cause max trouble for PCSE.

    Sadly, most practices won't and PCSE will be let off the hook.

    But you can bet if it was practices at fault then ICO, NHSE etc would cause max trouble for practices over every single set of notes.

    Practices' apathy and lack of fight is our undoing, we are our own worst enemy.

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  • It's no real surprise that Capita has screwed up again, the latest in a long line of decisions made by anonymous executives without accountability. But just wait until next year (?), when Capita start delivering Practice payments!

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  • Vinci Ho

    (1) If a computer system generating a wrong 10 years cardiovascular disease risk can cause some fuss leading to the SOS calling a pause in contract negotiation , where is the unequivocal , equivalent response in this saga on Capita? Perhaps the SOS does not even know what is GP support service and positive response to this crisis will never earn 'juicy' headline in tabloid papers and other media.
    (2) This is a legacy as well as fallacy of efficiency saving , the creator(s) of which should be held accountable . On this particular crisis , those who awarded the contract to Capita should show themselves to the public .
    (3) The PM can say so much about 7 days NHS , reducing antibiotics resistance etc but if the fundamental virtue of confidentiality in handling patient's records cannot even be maintained , this government derserves no credibility from the public to handle the health service. Yes , there may be an argument when all records are electronically held and transferred (GP to GP), there may not be any problem at all . But even so , can you give your trust? We all know where we stand as far as is concerned!

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  • So what are patient records even doing in the hands of Capita? The NHS organisation that gave them access should be in front of the Information Commissioner's office for breaching patient confidentiality. Many patients have objected to data even flowing to HSCIC let alone any third party organisation. Capita are not a Safe Haven, they have proved this over and over. It is like putting G4S in charge of security, the only logical reason is that the people doing it are getting something out of it.

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