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GP practices paid £2.5m to review lost patient correspondence

GPs have to date been paid over £2.5m by NHS England to review and assess patient documentation that was lost in transit.

GPs missed out on correspondence dating back to 2011 due to errors made by NHS Shared Business Services in redirecting and forwarding correspondence sent to the wrong practice by hospitals, up until its NHS England contract ended in 2015.

Areas contracted to NHS SBS and affected by the issue included the East Midlands, North of England, North East London and South West England.

In all, over 708,000 items of mail had not been successfully redirected to GPs. Some 190,000 of these messages were identified as not being of clinical significance and were sent to archive, with the remaining messages redirected back to the affected practices.

At the time, the GPC negotiated an agreement by which NHS England would pay a fee to each practice affected, based on the number of outstanding messages that required action.

Practices have been paid on a scale as per:

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  • Fewer than 20 documents – a payment of £50;
  • 20 to 50 – a payment of £100;
  • More than 50 – £50 for each batch of up to 10 items.

And, responding to a written question from Labour’s shadow health minister Jonathan Ashwort, health minister Nicola Blackwood said: ‘Payments made to GP practices, to the end of February 2017 for this work now total £2,442,750, for which final liability remains subject to discussion.’

She added that the payments were to ‘support GP practices, which have been required to review and assess large numbers of returned documentation arising from this incident’.

Ms Blackwood said they were ‘intended to provide recompense for the time required to review and assess the documentation in the context of relevant patient medical records; to communicate with patients about the incident where necessary; and to report to NHS England the outcome of this work and whether there is any potential harm caused because of the delay’.

Ms Blackwood also responded to criticism that the public was not immediately informed last year when the DH was made aware of the issue.

She said: ‘Publicising the issue at the time could have meant GP surgeries being inundated with inquiries from worried patients which would have prevented them doing the most important work, namely investigating the named patients who were potentially at risk.’

There have been no confirmed case of a patient being harmed as a result of this issue and no compensation has been paid out by NHS England to any patient.

NHS England, the Department of Health, the Information Commissioners Office and the National Audit Office are currently conducting separate investigations into the incident.