NHS England has been ordered by influential MPs to show how it has compensated GPs for the botched outsourcing of primary care support services.
NHS England’s choice to contract with Capita in 2015 received stark criticism from the Public Accounts Committee in a report published today.
It said ‘NHS England’s outsourcing strategy led to a short-sighted rush to achieve savings, heedless of the impact on patients or practitioners’.
This follows the National Audit Office’s findings in May that the outsourcing ‘potentially compromised patient safety’.
Capita has since admitted that it regrets having taken on the unprofitable contract, without fully understanding the risks of the specification.
The report from the PAC’s inquiry also concluded that:
- failure to deliver services led to ‘disruptions and extra costs’ for GPs as well as dentists, pharmacists and opticians;
- a ‘lack of collaboration’ between NHS England and Capita resulted in them taking too long to resolve issues; and
- service failures following the outsourcing put patients at risk of serious harm.
It said that ‘NHS England is currently assessing an incident to identify whether there has been actual patient harm’.
To date there was evidence that, ‘delays in moving medical records impacted patients’ ability to access necessary care’ and ’87 women were incorrectly notified that they were no longer part of the cervical screening programme’.
The PAC ordered NHS England to inform the committee by January next year ‘whether there is evidence of any harm to patients’.
Also by January 2019, it should write to the PAC ‘setting out what they have done to compensate primary care practitioners for the disruption to the service’.
More widely, the PAC recommended NHS England ‘must ensure’ that outsourcing contracts have mechanisms to intervene if the contract does ‘not go as planned’.
BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘It is only right that the Public Accounts Committee be so damning in its assessment of Capita’s running of the PCSE contract. The programme has been run woefully and negatively impacted patients, services and GPs.
‘GPs experienced two years of chaos as a result of this contract. It’s clear that Capita were incentivised by the contract awarded by NHS England to close support offices and cut staff as quickly as possible regardless of the problems that were quickly developing. Prioritising money over services has been very damaging for general practice.’
‘The BMA repeatedly pressured NHS England to urgently address the problems with PCSE delivery, and now that the NAO and now PAC have so clearly backed our concerns, we hope this assessment of its failures will finally make NHS England and government sit up, listen and learn from past mistakes. The recommendations of this report are useful, and we look forward to hearing the responses from NHS England and Capita.’