Exclusive The Information Commissioner is making enquiries after GP have reported patient records going missing as a new service to securely transfer notes around the country continues to malfunction.
The GPC has also told Pulse it has ‘raised governance issues’ due to reports from practices that they have been sent the wrong patient records or those of patients who have been recently deceased.
There was one report that patient records were ‘found in a car park’ although Pulse understands measures may have been taken to prevent this occurring again by providing couriers with more secure storage for transporting records.
It follows reports of the ‘systematic failure’ of the recently privatised primary care support service, taken over by private firm Capita last September in order to cut costs by 40%. GP practices have reported missing prescription pads and sterile supplies, delayed seniority payments and enhanced service payments.
NHS England – who commissions the new service – admitted to Pulse that there were ‘transition issues’ that need to be fixed, while Capita said it had been tasked with ‘transforming’ a previously ‘fragmented’ system, and that initial teething problems were inevitable.
The GPC has asked for GP practices to be compensated for the disruption, and Pulse has now learnt that a list of issues with a new secure patient record transport service have also been submitted to NHS England.
Since February, Capita has contracted CitySprint, a courier service, to move patient records, in plastic bags sealed by practices.
The GPC’s lead on the issue, Dr Ian Hume, told Pulse: ‘We have raised governance issues, and raised that we have heard similar stories.
‘When they started they didn’t have containers to put it [notes] in, now they’ve issued CitySprint with containers so you have boxes which can be sealed. So the CitySprint driver comes in with a sealed box, you fill it up and that’s sealed up so it won’t fall over. Rather than the story we had of somebody walking out with a bundle of notes in their hand, who has dropped some in the carpark.’
He added: ‘My advice is if a practice receives the wrong set of notes, then this needs to be returned to Primary Care Support England via Capita, and it needs to be reported officially as an information governance breach.’
Dr Hume added that the information governance issues did not stop at records going astray, but that practices are also complaining about courier drivers not carrying ID or properly signing for records.
Peter Harrison, a practice manager at the Milton Surgery in Weston-super-Mare said his practice received 26 correct records in one week, some who ‘never had any links with the local area at all’ and some ‘registered with practices far away’. He said that he also received records for ‘two dead patients’.
A spokesperson for the Information Commissioner’s Office told Pulse: ‘The ICO has been made aware of concerns around the process for moving GP patient records within England, and is making enquiries. ‘
Pulse has already reported that practices previously used to twice-weekly collections had waited as long as five weeks without a pickup when the service transferred.
NHS England said that ‘information governance is taken very seriously’ but that ‘Capita are in the process of delivering a range of changes to primary care support services which are designed to make services more efficient, more reliable and ultimately better for GP practices’.
A spokesperson said: ‘We will continue to work closely to monitor, review progress and investigate any issues raised by users… reported issues are routinely logged and investigated to determine root causes and the appropriate remedial action in line with NHS England information governance procedures.’
Capita stressed that ‘all of our courier service staff have mandatory ID and nothing should be handed over unless ID is presented’.
A spokesperson said: ‘We take information governance very seriously. Any issues reported to us or NHS England would be investigated in accordance with NHS England’s information governance process.’
A CitySprint spokesperson said: ‘We are working closely with Capita to introduce a new, secure weekly collection service for medical records for all GP practices across England.
‘All CitySprint couriers carry mandatory ID and nothing should be handed over unless ID is presented. We take information governance seriously and would urge anyone with concerns to report them through the proper process.’
Story changed 11:20, 26 May. The story originally said ’26 incorrect records’. It meant to say ‘correct records’.