GP support services that were outsourced to private company Capita in a cost-cutting exercise are now at acceptable levels after a year of disruption for practices, NHS England has told Pulse.
Pulse has reported extensively over the past year that GPs had been severely disrupted since Capita overhauled primary care support services in April 2016, with records going missing, GPs unable to work because they hadn’t been put on the performers list, and payments going missing.
NHS England claims that it has been ‘encouraged’ with the progress made by Capita in implementing a recovery plan, which the two parties agreed and was announced at NHS England’s February board meeting.
But GP leaders have said that claims that support services are improving are ‘utter garbage’ , with services remaining well below acceptable levels.
NHS England promised in February this year that it has agreed an improvement plan with Capita around GP ’customer support services, medical records and patient registration’, while work was under way to ‘to improve recovery of the performers list’.It said it expected ‘recovery’ of these services by March.
This came after Pulse reported a series of problems with Capita’s services, including:
- Patient records going missing within weeks of Capita taking over, with practices left stockpiling mounds of notes, and the Information Commissioners Office questioning Capita over cases where records reached the wrong address or were dropped in car parks.
- Qualified GPs being unable to work for six months because they couldn’t get on the National Performers List.
- GPs faced missing out on pensions tax relief after they were repeatedly unable to submit year-end pensions certificates due to problems with Capita’s mailbox
- One practice being owed £100,000 because of backlogged and missing payments operated by NHS England and Capita.
An NHS England spokesperson told Pulse this week: ‘Following our work with Capita, to ensure that urgent and immediate improvements were made to primary care support service, we are encouraged by the progress that has been made.
‘Capita are executing the agreed recovery plans and we continue to work closely to ensure the completion of these.’
But GP leaders disputed this claim, saying that there are still problems.
Dr Ian Hume,the BMA GP Committee’s lead on the Capita issue, said: ’In response to sustained pressure and lobbying from GPC, long overdue improvements are at last being made in some areas. However, services are still far from being back to a fully acceptable level and there remain unacceptable problems affecting locums pension arrangements and in some parts of the country, the operation of the performers list. We are continuing to place pressure on NHS England to resolve these issues.’
He added that future changes, such as another update to the way records are transported due later this year will now be rolled out region-by-region, rather than national launch that was intended for last year. This will allow their impact to be monitored and may even help ‘resolve some of the problems practices have seen with missing records’.
Birmingham LMC executive secretary Dr Bob Morley – who is also the GPC’s contracts and regulations spokesperson – told Pulse in the West Midlands there were still major problems. He said: ‘The pledge from NHS England that things would be on an even keel by April has predictably turned out to be utter garbage. Our practices are reporting as many problems as before, across the entire range of primary care support services.’
He added: ‘This contract should never have been awarded in the first place. There’s no doubt that NHS England was negligent when it awarded this contract, it didn’t do its due diligence.’
‘Why is there no plan B and why have no heads rolled in NHS England from people who awarded this contract?’
One practice manager in Essex told Pulse: ‘The service is still poor, I’ve got records outstanding from January that still have not arrived.’
A Capita spokesperson told Pulse: ‘PCSE continues to make good progress across all service lines as acknowledged by NHS England, and we are confident that the plans we have put in place will help ensure that all services are delivered according to expectations.’