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Capita told by minister to consider compensating GP practices

Capita will be expected to consider financially compensating GP practices for the support services upheaval, a health minister has said.

Speaking yesterday in a House of Commons debate, health minister Nicola Blackwood said GP practices had ‘suffered financial detriment’ after NHS England outsourced primary care support services to Capita last year.

Ms Blackwood said she recognised that ‘GPs and ophthalmologists in particular have suffered financial detriment as a result of late processing of payments’.

She said: ‘NHS England is working with Capita to explore what can be done to support affected stakeholders, and I have made it clear to Capita that I expect it to consider compensation as an option.’

Ms Blackwood’s comments come as the GPC has called for GPs to receive financial recompense for the ‘systematic failure’ of support services since May.

Yesterday’s adjournment debate around the contract was called by Coventry North West MP Geoffrey Robinson, after concerns were raised in his constituency.

Speaking in the debate, he said: ‘Something must give in the drive for profit, the drive to cut the costs of the services and the drive to improve the services.

‘Those are irreconcilable objectives to start with, and in rectifying them the first thing that has to go is the drive for profit.’

He said Capita ‘must realise that when it comes to put this right, it has to put the resources behind that’.

He added that ‘compensation for GPs is important’ but that he would ‘put it secondary to the provision of resources to get the contract right’.

Ms Blackwood said Capita’s priority now must be to deal with a backlog in requests for medical records – an issue on which it was making progress.

She said: ‘The backlog of medical record requests has reduced from 17,262 to 3,465 in the past two weeks.’

Ms Blackwood also said that Capita’s plan to allow patient records to be sent directly between practices without going through a sorting office, will be ‘ready to roll out nationally in March 2017’.

The scheme, under which practices bag the records and mark them with a barcode, was initially planned to launch earlier this year, following pilots in West Yorkshore, but received criticism from GP practices for adding too much work.

It comes as the GPC warned on Monday that support services remain ‘a chaotic mess’.

The support service saga so far

Capita was announced as the national supplier of primary care support services last year, and took on the £400 million, seven-year contract, in September 2015 after NHS England slashed its previous budget of £100m a year by 40%.

Practices were reporting ‘significant disruption’ from August 2015, as local offices that delivered support services were rolled up, but this escalated markedly in April when Capita began overhauling services.

Practices have been left without supplies, and with stockpiles of patient notes which Pulse revealed was due in part to NHS England significantly underestimating the scale of records movement they were contracting for.

 A new system allowing practices to send records directly, without being sorted at a Capita warehouse was due to roll out in Spring, but has been delayed over the additional workload implications for practices.

Other changes that Capita is contracted to roll out, including cancer screening administration and national GP ‘ghost patient’ list cleansing drives, have been pushed back while the current problems are addressed.

A Capita survey last month showed GP satisfaction had tumbled from 63% to 21% since it took over the contract, and on Tuesday 8 November MPs will debate the failings in the procurement and delivery of the contract in Parliament.