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GP support services problems putting patients ‘at risk’, NHS England admits

NHS England has admitted that the ongoing problems caused by outsourcing provider Capita’s overhaul of GP support services have put patients at risk.

Directors at NHS England’s September board meeting said that problems with Primary Care Support England had ‘escalated’ this summer and that the problems were ‘creating some risks for patients’.

This comes after NHS England responded to concerns from the BMA’s GP committee this month, apologising and saying they had applied financial penalties for Capita’s ‘unacceptable’ performance.

Karen Wheeler, NHS England’s national director for transformation and corporate operations, told the board: ‘I just want to recognise that obviously this has impacts for users, which include of course primary care contractors – GPs, ophthalmic and dental practitioners – and recognise that that’s difficult for all those users, and indeed creating some risks for patients as well.

‘So we are doing everything we can to make sure that we escalate, and address the risks particularly for patients, and we will be communicating with practitioners how we are planning on, with Capita, to try to improve services as quickly as possible.’

Pulse has revealed that problems with support services have seen GPs reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office for not being able to produce undelivered patient notes, and have created huge workloads for practices in chasing records, payments and clinical supplies.

NHS England chair Professor Malcom Grant paid tribute to the NHS England’s directors, and their teams, for the ‘huge amount of work’ they have put in ‘trying to ensure people aren’t harmed by this at all.’

Professor Grant said: ‘As you know the board takes this extremely gravely. When we say unacceptable, we mean unacceptable. I think we need to pay tribute to you [Karen Wheeler] and the team for the huge amount of work that has gone into trying to ensure that people aren’t harmed by this at all.’

A Capita spokesperson told Pulse: ‘Across all PCSE services our focus is to ensure that GPs and primary care providers are supported so they can concentrate on patient care. We fully recognise that the administrative services we provide play a key role in supporting primary care providers and ensure that urgent work is always treated as a priority.

‘We have openly apologised for the level and varied quality of service we have provided across a number of PCSE services. As NHS England acknowledges, we are working very closely with them, supported by their subject matter experts, to implement step changes to improve current services.’

NHS England awarded Capita the contract for delivering support services after slashing its £100m a year budget by 40%. The new service scrapped local offices in favour of centralised hubs, and will also see Capita take over administration of screening programmes and list cleansing, and overhauling GP pensions, payments and the performers list.