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GPs will have to review ‘a further 160,000 items’ of lost clinical correspondence

GPs are in for a workload hit after NHS England uncovered a further 162,000 pieces of clinical correspondence lost in an NHS blunder.

The news, unveiled today by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, follows Pulse’s revelation last year that GP practices were missing years of correspondence.

Since then, a National Audit Office report published this June found that nearly 2,000 patients may have been harmed by failures of NHS Shared Business Services to pass on over 700,000 pieces of clinical correspondence for at least five years.

GP practices have been tasked with reviewing uncovered items of correspondence, with practices paid per item they need to review, at a cost to NHS England of £2.5m.

But, responding to questioning from the Public Accounts Committee this afternoon, Mr Stevens said NHS England has now recovered another two more batches of lost correspondence.

He said: ‘We have come across what we think are 12,000 SBS items – in addition to the 709,000.’

In addition, he added that some 150,000 further itemrs would require review as a result of NHS England scrapping its mail redirection service back in 2015.

Mr Stevens said: ‘Around 5%’ of [GP] practices had continued to send incorrectly addressed mail to these local services, rather than returning it to sender.

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‘We think there are probably about 150,000 or so items that require repatriation back to GPs and we aim to have done that by the end of December.’

Mr Stevens said this meant that NHS England would have to ‘further resource’ the work of GP practices reviewing lost correspondence, with the aim for practices to have gone through the ‘second tranche’ by March next year.

Mr Stevens also provided an update on the potential harm to 2,000 patients as identified by the NAO.

He said so far no patient harm was uncovered, but 941 instances of potential harm still required checking.

Pulse revealed in July 2016 that practices were missing years of correspondence with GP leaders warning there could be ‘huge implications’ if patient care had been delayed.

Mail redirection was part of the support services contract, but was one of a number of services that was not transferred over to Capita when it became sole provider.

In December 2016 NHS England said GPs would be required to review the correspondence to identify if patients had been harmed or put at risk but would be paid for the work entailed from a £2.5m fund.

Two months ago NHS England said 30% of practices had yet to respond to its request for information, prompting it to issue a reminder.