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Capita writes to GPs after admitting scale of cervical cancer screening errors

Capita is writing to GPs after it found that the problems that saw tens of thousands of woman failing to receive correspondence about cervical cancer screening is worse than originally believed.

Following a review of the issue, the company said that the problems stretch back to 2017 – affecting 3,500 more women than was originally thought.

The error – which Capita first discovered in August, but failed to tell NHS England about until October – saw 47,000 women failing to receive correspondence about appointment invitations or reminders, but also includes thousands of results letters.

A spokesman told Pulse that GPs will not be expected to take action over the letters. 

The RCGP has called for Capita to be stripped of the contract to provide primary care support services as a result, following on from the BMA previously calling for this.

Pulse reported in November that around 47,000 women had failed to receive correspondence about screening appointments in 2018 following a Capita administrative error.

Capita said that its subsequent review into the issue found that there were 3,500 incidents in 2017, as well as those in 2018.

It found that the correct process for uploading, organising and checking datafiles was not properly followed. It confirmed that the senior executive responsible for the error, who also failed to inform NHS England, has since left the company.

The statement said: ‘Following the announcement last month about a delay in issuing cervical screening correspondence in 2018, Primary Care Support England (PCSE) has conducted a thorough review of correspondence prior to 2018.

‘All women affected, and their GPs, are being written to today (Dec 11) advising them on what they need to do. Only a small proportion were abnormal result letters, and the women affected all received a referral.

‘Capita apologises to the women affected by this administrative error.’

In response, the RCGP said GPs had ‘lost confidence’ in Capita and called for the company to be stripped of the contract.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, RCGP chair, said: ‘This is simply not good enough. Less than a month since we initially heard about this cervical screening error, we are now hearing it is more serious, and has affected thousands more women.

‘Capita has been shown time and time again to be unable to deliver on the work it has been contracted to do in the NHS. This is completely unacceptable – people working throughout the NHS have lost all confidence in Capita, and it really is time for NHS England to reconsider its contract with them.’

Since Capita took over the running of primary care support services, there have been a number of failings around patient records going missing, lost correspondence and failures to put GPs on the performers list among many other problems.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said: ‘This is just the latest in a long line of failures since Capita took over a number of GP services in 2015 and yet NHS England have not demonstrated to the profession that they are serious at addressing what ultimately they are responsible for.

‘We therefore repeat our demand that NHS England strip the company of its contract and return this service to an in-house delivered activity that can regain the confidence of practices and patients.’