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GPs forwarding mail to Capita are putting patients 'at risk', claims NHS England

GPs are putting patient safety at risk by redirecting incorrectly addressed mail to Capita instead of back to the original sender, according to a notice on the Primary Care Support England website.

The statement said ‘up to 10,000’ items of mail such as test results, child protection notes and changes to patients’ medication regimens have been sent to the wrong GP and then forwarded to PCSE. 

It warned that forwarding the letters to PCSE instead of returning them to the sender ‘exposes patients to a risk of harm’.

According to Capita, the company that provides primary care support services, the notice was published on its site on behalf of NHS England.

This comes after a report from the National Audit Office warned in May that NHS England’s decision to outsource primary care support services to Capita ‘potentially compromised patient safety’.

The notice on PCSE's website said: ‘Many items of mail that are sent in error to GPs - up to 10,000 each month - are being forwarded to PCSE rather than returned to the original sender, as they should be.

‘Errors in the management of this NHS correspondence… expose patients to a risk of harm and disclosure of confidential information.’

It added that the items being forwarded to PCSE include ‘test results and clinical notes, child protection notes, treatment plans and changes to patients’ medication regimes’.

PCSE advised GPs who receive correspondence for patients not registered at their practice to ‘return the items directly to the provider they came from as soon as possible using appropriate means’.

According to the notice, ‘the original sender of the correspondence… is expected to track down the correct destination' for the letters.

But Family Doctor chairman Dr Peter Swinyard told Pulse that returning the mail to its sender 'is not an appropriate thing to do as the sender won't necessarily have any information about which GP is now looking after that patient'.

He added: 'Patient safety is not served by bumping a letter back on the hospital who has no other way of telling where that patient is... they're not concerned in the slightest about patient safety.

'This is not about patient safety, if it was... they would realise that patient safety is best served by them forwarding them on to the currently registered doctor. The information which they have and no one else does.'

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'Given the ongoing confusion and lack of effective communication, it is regrettable yet understandable that some practices may have, in good faith, sent misdirected correspondence on to PCSE.

'This would have been the arrangement before NHS England tried to cut costs by commissioning PCSE services to Capita three years ago.'

He added that GPs 'should ensure they are familiar with the current arrangements for dealing with correspondence they receive'.

An NHS England spokesperson said: 'NHS England has reinforced guidance to GP practices in a clear and unequivocal way about how to deal with misdirected clinical correspondence and the latest data shows this correspondence has been halved and the aim is to reduce it further.'

Capita has previously come under fire from Government auditors for amassing a backlog of 400,000 clinical letters following the transfer of primary care support services to the private firm.

The Public Accounts Committee later said NHS England was ‘far too slow’ in taking the issue of misdirected clinical correspondence ‘seriously’, which wasted millions of taxpayer funds.

Readers' comments (9)

  • NHS England covering itself in glory once again. Who actually appoints and employs these people? What other organisations have they worked and failed in? Is the NHSE a home for those who could not be employed elsewhere? When will it dawn on those in power that cost saving initiatives are rarely thought through and usually seem to end up incurring costs far in excess of any potential savings (although those costs are not necessarily borne by NHSE to enable them to declare "SUCCESS".)

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  • AlanAlmond

    If your a GP you assume responsibility for everybody else’s mistakes. No wonder indemnity is enormous, your basically indemnifying yourself again mistakes made by the entire health care system/government and any other half wit who decides to dump their shit on you. You can’t insure against that , hence exponential insurance fee increase.

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  • surely it's the original sender who has created the 'risk', not the patsy recipient. Have I got a duty of care to someone not registered with me, who I have never seen, but who someone incorrectly sends me a letter about? AlanAlmond is spot on. (Mind you in 25 years of practice I can't ever recall such a thing happening, so it might all be fake news)

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  • Just Your Average Joe

    The only thing Capita is concerned with is costs not patient safety.

    Capita is the only organisation which is aware of the currently registered GP so should have all inappropriate mail sent to them to redirect.

    Capita is only concerned with the workload and cost this generates for which they failed to cost and include in the tender they submitted to win this contract.

    Capita is a failed organisation which only wins contracts due to high level cash backs and jobs for boys. Despite repeated failures, this allows them to continue to be awarded contracts despite abysmal track records in the public sector.

    So the correct thing is to forward letters to Capita to redirect to the new GP in a timely manner.

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  • @Just your average Joe
    Its what they were contracted to do Properly.

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  • Somewhat sensational article perhaps? It makes sense for the GP to return such correspondence to the original sender who would otherwise not have been aware that it had been sent to the wrong person. Capita may have its issues but this really isn't one of them.

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  • Rather rich coming from NHSE who has outsourced it to Capita. The person who created the problem should solve it not push it to GPs again.

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  • Joe is right. Capita have the information, an dare the only ones who have access to it, and they are paid to deal with it. If they are useless, they should be sacked. They are causing risk to patients, and should also be struck off and blacklisted for failing to reflect and act on their failures appropriately, as any GP would be if it actually were our responsibility! (which in this case it is not).
    And if Capita and the NHS IT system had been properly maintained, this information would actually BE available to the hospital, as it is in New Zealand UHR IT system!
    is GB back to being a third world country again for NHSE incompetence?

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  • They’ve Found a way to make it GPs’ fault ! Took them longer than usual with this one!

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