Exclusive GPs have voiced concern for patients after learning NHS England is set to scrap mail redirection following the loss of local primary care support services.
The local teams currently ensure mail from hospitals addressed to the wrong GP provider is redirected to the correct surgery, but the new national support services contract being tendered by NHS England does not include funding for this.
GP leaders warned the loss of the redirection service would lead to increased workload for practices and potential delays to patient care as they would be forced to return mail to hospitals instead.
NHS England said that all acute trusts have access to a central database containing GP registration details of patients in England and should therefore confirm the current GP of a patient before sending correspondence.
However, in a letter to practices, Londonwide LMCs warned that they felt there were ‘clinical risks’ to this approach.
Londonwide LMCs wrote: ‘NHS England has communicated that it expects secondary care providers to deal with returned correspondence in a timely manner and correct their records so that future correspondence is sent to the correct practice in the first instance…
‘Londonwide LMC has expressed concern that there are clinical risks associated with this approach, which relies on the adequacy of secondary care systems to ensure that there are minimal delays to GPs receiving letters, and from hospitals and patients receiving outpatient appointments and invitations for investigations.’
NHS England announced that it would be putting the £100 million Primary Care Support Services contract out for competitive tender last year in a bid to shave £40 million from its support services budget and ‘free up more money for care’.
NHS England advertised the contract to private providers last year and is currently reviewing a shortlist of three candidates to take on the contract.
It has already revealed that ‘non core’ services not to be funded under the new contract would include keeping patient population databases up to date; GP courier services for collecting records; and administrative tasks including notifying patients of practice closure.
An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘It is the responsibility of secondary care providers to ensure their records are up to date and deal with any returned correspondence in a timely manner. In a significant number of areas across the country, practices already return incorrectly addressed correspondence to the sender, who has the legal responsibility from a data perspective to ensure information they send is correctly addressed.
‘To bring procedures in line with current legislation, all practices will adopt this approach, which is supported by the RCGP and the BMA.’