Capita is charging the maximum legally chargeable fee for bereaved families to access medical records of their deceased relatives, in a move criticised by GP leaders.
Primary Care Support England, which has been outsourced to private company Capita since the end of last year, holds the records of all patients who are not registered with a GP practice or who have died.
Pulse has learnt that it is charging £50 for people to get access to the records of deceased patients or for unregistered patients to get access to their own records. The charge had previously been at the discretion of GP practices at a maximum of £50, but BMA guidance from 2014 advised they only charge the costs of copying and posting the records.
According to legislation, data controllers can charge a maximum of £10 for access to electronic records or a maximum of £50 for paper records. Capita’s website guidance says this is an ‘administration charge for the provision of a copy of a health record to cover the administration and photocopying costs incurred by PCSE to meet your request.’
But Dr Robert Morley, head of the GPC contracts and regulation subcommittee, told Pulse that Capita does not need to charge £50, which exceeds the administrative and postage costs.
He told Pulse: ‘The £50 is the maximum fee, the actual charge should reflect the true cost, but they are charging a £50 flat rate for all requests.’ Dr Morley added that there is no other way relatives can access these records.
Capita are not allowed to charge for records which have been amended in the 40 days prior to the application.
But a spokesperson told Pulse that these cases are rare and that they would refund the £50 fee if a clinician told them the record had been amended in the last 40 days, subject to photocopying and postage costs which would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
The spokesperson added: ‘We are simply aiming to cover the costs incurred for accessing paper records and refute any suggestion otherwise. The fees are in line with legislation.’
Capita will also consult a health professional before releasing the record as the duty of confidentiality continues beyond death, the spokesperson said.
This comes after a number of problems with the transport of patient notes. Some practices have reported accumulating piles of patient notes after waiting four weeks for a collection and patient notes going missing, while the Information Commissioner’s Office is enquiring about information governance breaches.
GPC recently passed a motion of no confidence in Capita following ‘months of concerns’ around ’failures in patient record transfer, delivery of supplies and payment problems’.
Problems with primary care support services
Money – coins – cash – online
NHS England opted to save £40 million a year from its support services budget and tendered for a single national provider for Primary Care Support England (PCSE).
The winner, Capita, has centralised support services to three national hubs and implemented a single online ‘portal’ for practices to order supplies and ‘track’ the movement of patient records.
Pulse has documented issues, from FP10 shortages, to patient notes turning up in a carpark, that have spiked since April’s overhaul and GP leaders have been urging practices to report every issue to NHS England.