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BMA urges NHS England to ‘take robust stance’ amid continuing support service failures

GP leaders are calling on NHS England to deal with ‘continued failures’ in the delivery of vital services provided by Capita, which they claim has seen delays in paying trainees, registering and removing patients and problems with dealing with pension contributions.

The business management and support service company took over the responsibility for Primary Care Support England (PCSE) in 2015 when the Government outsourced services.

It runs a range of back office services for the 7,600 GP practices in England.

These include the transfer of medical records, ordering medical supplies and the payment process for GP trainees.

In a strongly worded letter to the head of NHS England, the BMA’s GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘All of us who work in general practice, and who depend on this service, expect to see a much more robust stance taken by NHS England to resolving these many problems.’

He called for an update on his concerns.

He outlined ‘the significant number of ongoing issues due to the poor delivery of services by PCSE provided by Capita and commissioned by NHS England.’

Capita said it did not recognise the picture and said its customer satisfaction was increasing.

Dr Vautrey highlighted concerns about payroll issues which saw some GP trainees not getting paid on time and meant GP practices used patient care budgets to pay staff.

Another concern was ‘significant delays and faulty processes’ in registration and patient removal, affecting practice funding and meant patients faced delays in their treatment.

He said there were administrative delays removing violent patients from practice lists.

He told Simon Stevens that he was concerned about preparations for new systems for cervical screening and GP pensions and payments and pensions, due to start in July 2018.

‘We are very concerned that preparations are not sufficiently advanced at this stage of the projects to guarantee a seamless transfer to the new service. We have no confidence in Capita’s ability to deliver this service, the consequences of failings will be very serious for practices, affecting their viability.’

A Capita spokesperson said the company has been ‘improving the service and that has been recognised by NHS England’.

She said it was committed to ‘delivering an efficient service’.

According to the spokesperson, Capita only deals with GP trainee payments in Thames Valley, Yorkshire and Humber and half of Wessex and said it had been waiting for information from NHS England, Health Education England and practices.

‘We absolutely do not accept that there are problems with paying trainees,’ she said.

She added there was a ‘historical challenge’ with pensions and the company is awaiting NHS England instructions on how to deal with it. The company was not experiencing delays in data registration or removal.

But NHS England said there were trainee payment backlogs, which were being ‘prioritised’ by Capita.

A spokesperson said: ‘We are holding Capita’s “feet to the fire” on needed improvements, and in the meantime, the lead employer for Health Education England or the GP practice are responsible for paying their GP trainee salaries and are subsequently reimbursed for this. Backlogs are being prioritised by Capita.’

The news comes as local GP leaders are due to vote on motion suggesting NHS England should end its outsourcing contract with Capita at the England LMCs Conference next Friday.

It also comes as Derby and Derbyshire LMC wrote to Capita and NHS England last week complaining that there had been ‘no meaningful improvement’ to support services provided by Capita.

NHS England said last year that it had issued Capita with financial penalties for missing performance targets but provided no detail due to ‘commercial confidentiality’.

It said in April that service levels had been brought to ‘acceptable’ levels, but GP leaders said at the time that this was ‘utter garbage’.

A Pulse analysis showed how some problems were caused by NHS England significantly underestimating the demands on the service when awarding the contract.

NHS England has said that Capita ‘are under formal contract rectification’.