This site is intended for health professionals only

Atos faces review of Government contracts amid GPES criticism

The Government has ordered that all of its major contracts with outsourcing company Atos be reviewed in light of a damning report into its role in the ‘flawed’ GP data extraction system.

The Cabinet Office will review all contracts worth more than £10m annually that they hold with the French IT company.

It said this was in light of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report, published in January, which said that Atos ’took advantage of a weak client’ when charging the Department of Health for the GP Extraction Service (GPES) while ’knowing full well that the whole system had not been properly tested’.

This report followed a National Audit Office report from last summer, which declared the system delivered was ‘fundamentally flawed’ and unlikely to have a long-term future.

The PAC, in its recommendations said: ’The Cabinet Office should undertake a full review of Atos’s relationships as a supplier to the Crown. We expect the Cabinet Office to note carefully this example of sharp practice when determining what obligations a duty of care on contractors should entail and what sanctions would apply when performance falls short.’

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: ‘In line with the PAC’s recommendation, the Cabinet Office is undertaking a review of all current Atos contracts with central Government with an annual spend over £10m.’

Atos highlighted that although it was responsible for a ’key part’ of the GPES system, other organisations were contracted to develop the service as well.

An Atos spokesperson told Pulse: ’We look forward to working with the Cabinet Office, with whom we have a transparent and open relationship and we look forward to maintaining our green rating for delivery across Whitehall.’

GPES is used to automatically extract information, such as the QOF and enhanced service achievement, directly from GP practice IT systems. This is then used to determine the level of payments practices are entitled to from NHS England.

The system was initially supposed to in use from 2009/10 but it took until April 2014 for HSCIC to provide the first GPES data extract, and only NHS England and Public Health England currently receive GPES data.

How GPs have suffered from the GPES problems

Despite the rollout being delayed five years, the system was not fully tested before rollout, and this led to further bugs being discovered on its launch. The system is currently delivering only half of the services it was designed for. The DH has assured MPs this would rise to 60% this year but admitted this was ’not value for money’.

This has affected GPs because delays and errors with the automated payment reporting service forced practice to manually input QOF and enhanced service achievement creating ’borderline chaos’ according to GP leaders.

The PAC has recommended that the Department of Health makes a decision on the future of GPES, the cost of which rose from £14m to £40m in the planning and procurement stage, with ‘at least’ £5.5m in other costs expected, by June this year.