Exclusive GP practices are threatening to boycott the national pilot of a new patient record transfer service, which requires them to send out a blank record in the post, over concerns it will add extra unfunded work to already stretched practices.
GPs and practice managers across East Anglia have approached Pulse with concerns about the ’Medical Records Movement pilot’ that launched this week, which is testing how the new outsourced primary care support services will function.
As part of the pilot, practices will have to put blank records in a secure bag, print off a tracking label, which will be picked up by a courier and can be tracked.
But there are fears that the new scheme – when it is fully rolled out using full patient records – will result in extra workload, adding minutes to each patient transfer to another practice, and will be acutely felt by practices with a high patient turnover.
Practice managers have told NHS bosses that they would not be participating in the pilot until the potential funding and workload implications were addressed.
Pulse revealed the changes to primary care support services had led to local offices being closed, to be replaced with three centralised offices run by Capita, which led to fears that practices would face disruption (see box).
In the first major pilot scheme of the new support services, Capita’s Primary Care Support Services England (PCSE) group is testing its new patient record transfer system, which will see practices send a single ‘dummy’ record in the envelope, which would be collected by a courier.
A subsequent trial with live patient records will launch in West Yorkshire shortly before a planned national roll out this spring.
But practice managers have expressed concern that the pilot represents a workload increase when the scheme is fully rolled out.
This is because responsibility for tracking and chasing up missing records is being devolved to practices, where formerly it lay with local support service offices.
One practice manager in Cambridgeshire told Pulse: ‘The reduction in our admin burden is apparently the ease with which we can track their progress once they have left the practice.’
But, he said, practice managers never need to chase the record, so this would not be helpful.
He added: ’PCSE [told me] they were aware it would take a couple of additional minutes for us to bag and record, but they didn’t think that would be a problem. In my view it is all about reducing PCSE back-office costs and transferring the work to the practice.’
Dr Brian Balmer, chair of Essex LMCs and a GPC negotiator, told Pulse that local practice managers were boycotting the scheme.
He said: ‘Our practice managers will need some convincing that there is not a significant additional workload attached to this. They’re immensely sceptical about how this will work to the point that I’m not even sure that the pilot will be a success in terms of properly piloting the new scheme.’
‘The reaction across Essex, and across I know neighbouring counties was, ”this is extra work, just forget it”.’
Mark Berman, managing director, PCSE, told Pulse: ‘The movement and storage of medical records is currently provided by multiple private sector suppliers. Capita, on behalf of NHS England, is introducing a new national approach which will ensure patient medical records are transferred in a safer, more secure and trackable way.’
An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘NHS England has asked Capita to deliver 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.
’This will include improvements for how medical records are moved between GP practices to ensure that records remain safe and can be fully tracked and traced.’
The changes to primary care support services
overdue bills, payments, money, income – online
This new pilot for transferring medical records follows changes to the primary care support services implemented last year, which saw Capita take over the £330m seven-year contract in a bid by NHS England to cut operating costs by £40 million.
NHS England closed local offices that had been responsible for services such as the management of GP practice payments, medical records and national cervical and breast cancer screenings.
Instead, it contracted Capita to replace the local offices with three national centres, each dedicated to one function: screening services; payment services; and medical records, registrations and performers list services.