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Capita waited months to tell NHS England about cervical screening letter issues

Capita failed to deliver over 47,000 cervical cancer screening letters to patients – an issue it knew about two months before informing NHS England.

The private company admitted to Pulse it had discovered the error in August, but only told NHS England in October.

The issue, brought to light by the BMA, mainly relates to appointment invitations or reminders, but also includes around 4,500 results letters.

Capita said the issue was ‘not immediately escalated to senior leadership’ and ‘a senior executive responsible’ has since left the company.

The BMA has written to NHS England, calling for an end to Capita’s contract for GP back office services, with the GP Committee calling it ‘nothing short of shambolic’.

In a statement released yesterday, Capita admitted that correct processes were ‘not properly followed’, and the issue – discovered in August – was ‘not immediately escalated to senior leadership, or NHS England’.

It said: ‘We have investigated the precise circumstances around this incident, and it is clear that the correct process for uploading, organising and checking datafiles was not properly followed.

‘When the problem was discovered, it was not immediately escalated to senior leadership, or NHS England, by the individuals responsible.’

‘Capita is investigating the managerial handling of the matter and taking appropriate disciplinary action. Additionally, a senior executive responsible for this contract has already left Capita,’ it added.

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Capita also argued that the ‘risk to women of this incident is low’ and there is ‘no current evidence of harm’.

It said: ‘Capita nevertheless apologises to both the NHS and to the women whose correspondence was delayed.’

In the letter to NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, the BMA demanded that NHS England strip Capita of the contract and take Primary Care Support England (PCSE) services back in-house.

The BMA said that while GPs will do all they can to provide these women with support, they should not bear the brunt of rectifying the failings of a private company – something which they said GPs experienced in the past.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Since it took responsibility for GP back room functions three years ago, Capita‘s running of these services has been nothing short of shambolic and after repeated warnings from the BMA and government, this is now clear evidence that its failings have put patient safety – and possibly lives – at risk.

‘It is ultimately NHS England that bears overall responsibility and it must now take this service back in-house. As the body which commissioned Capita to take on this work, despite clear warning signs that it was not up to the job, NHS England must shoulder the blame for this dreadful situation; you cannot outsource responsibility.’

But NHS England told Pulse that while Capita knew about the issue in August, it did not inform NHS England until mid-October.

A spokesperson said: ‘Capita has alerted NHS England to an administrative failure in its processing of cervical screening, which means some women have not received invitation, reminder and result letters when they should have.

‘Every woman’s case is being reviewed, but there is no current evidence that this incident has led to harm to the women involved, and our priority now is to ensure that anyone affected by this incident is contacted, and knows how to get checked if they are due a cervical screen.’

The news comes as Capita recently accused GPs of putting patient safety at risk by redirecting incorrectly addressed mail to PCSE instead of back to the original sender.


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