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GPs forwarding mail to Capita are putting patients ‘at risk’, claims NHS England



GPs are putting patient safety at risk by redirecting incorrectly addressed mail to Capita instead of back to the original sender, according to a notice on the Primary Care Support England website.

The statement said ‘up to 10,000’ items of mail such as test results, child protection notes and changes to patients’ medication regimens have been sent to the wrong GP and then forwarded to PCSE.

It warned that forwarding the letters to PCSE instead of returning them to the sender ‘exposes patients to a risk of harm’.

According to Capita, the company that provides primary care support services, the notice was published on its site on behalf of NHS England.

This comes after a report from the National Audit Office warned in May that NHS England’s decision to outsource primary care support services to Capita ‘potentially compromised patient safety’.

The notice on PCSE’s website said: ‘Many items of mail that are sent in error to GPs – up to 10,000 each month – are being forwarded to PCSE rather than returned to the original sender, as they should be.

‘Errors in the management of this NHS correspondence… expose patients to a risk of harm and disclosure of confidential information.’

It added that the items being forwarded to PCSE include ‘test results and clinical notes, child protection notes, treatment plans and changes to patients’ medication regimes’.

PCSE advised GPs who receive correspondence for patients not registered at their practice to ‘return the items directly to the provider they came from as soon as possible using appropriate means’.

According to the notice, ‘the original sender of the correspondence… is expected to track down the correct destination’ for the letters.

But Family Doctor chairman Dr Peter Swinyard told Pulse that returning the mail to its sender ‘is not an appropriate thing to do as the sender won’t necessarily have any information about which GP is now looking after that patient’.

He added: ‘Patient safety is not served by bumping a letter back on the hospital who has no other way of telling where that patient is… they’re not concerned in the slightest about patient safety.

‘This is not about patient safety, if it was… they would realise that patient safety is best served by them forwarding them on to the currently registered doctor. The information which they have and no one else does.’

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Given the ongoing confusion and lack of effective communication, it is regrettable yet understandable that some practices may have, in good faith, sent misdirected correspondence on to PCSE.

‘This would have been the arrangement before NHS England tried to cut costs by commissioning PCSE services to Capita three years ago.’

He added that GPs ‘should ensure they are familiar with the current arrangements for dealing with correspondence they receive’.

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘NHS England has reinforced guidance to GP practices in a clear and unequivocal way about how to deal with misdirected clinical correspondence and the latest data shows this correspondence has been halved and the aim is to reduce it further.’

Capita has previously come under fire from Government auditors for amassing a backlog of 400,000 clinical letters following the transfer of primary care support services to the private firm.

The Public Accounts Committee later said NHS England was ‘far too slow’ in taking the issue of misdirected clinical correspondence ‘seriously’, which wasted millions of taxpayer funds.