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GP practices stockpile paper records after NHS collections ‘paused’

GP practices have had to stock-pile the paper records of patients who have moved practice after collections were ‘paused’ by the NHS contractor responsible.

Pulse has spoken to several practices in different areas of the country who were used to twice-weekly collections of patient notes, but are now waiting as long as five weeks without a collection.

Capita – the private company recently given the contract by NHS England to run primary care support services – told Pulse that it had ‘temporarily paused’ collections while it put alternative arrangements in place.

A spokesperson said weekly collections were now in place, but GPs have told Pulse they still have piles of notes that have not been collected.

GPs said that the delays could potentially putting patients at risk if their new practice is unable to access their electronic records.

The move to outsource services to Capita has already seen practices boycott a labour intensive ‘secure’ system for transferring patient records.

And last week Pulse reported this week that Capita had already had to bring in additional staff to man its support line and respond to emails from practices who were unable to register or order from its newly launched website – leaving some areas without vital FP10 prescription forms.

A Capita spokesperson said: ‘There was an initial transition period where collection times were temporarily paused to allow us to transfer the many individual courier services to our new national single supplier. We have now introduced a secure, weekly collection service for medical records for all GP practices across England.’

He added: ’A key feature of the national service will ensure that medical records will be fully tracked until they reach their destination. We are currently piloting this approach in one region and when this has concluded we will begin to launch across the country.

’We are continuing to work closely with NHS England and proactively engaging key stakeholders, including the GPC and LMCs, so we can continue to refine and improve the service going forward.’

But a GP in the East Midlands shared a picture on Twitter, showing the piles of records in his surgery. Another GP – who did not wish to be named – said that his practice had been waiting ‘five weeks’ for a collection.

The GPC’s deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said it had ‘been contacted by more practice managers on this issue than anything we’ve ever had’.

He said that ’clearly practices have real concerns about what is happening at the moment and Capita need to step up their game very rapidly’.

He added that in some circumstances patients could be harmed, saying: ‘If a particular record was needed and the GP2GP transfer hadn’t worked, or there wasn’t facility for [GP2GP] when you needed rapid access to the often complex case notes some patients have.

’That would be problem, and it would delay treatment or see a treatment given that would be inappropriate.’

What has happened to primary care support services?

Capita was awarded the support services contract after a full compeitive tender by NHS England as it sought to shave 40% from its £100m a year primary care support services budget.

Following Capita’s takeover of the services, formerly run from multiple local sites across the country, they have been consolidated to three hubs to cover England, with all transfers of physical patient records being coordinated from Preston.

 Pulse has revealed how practices were forced to put up with ’significant and unpredictable disruption’ before the new contract even began, as the old network of local offices was rolled up.