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Former health minister to raise GP fears over NHS Shared Business Services in Parliament

Former health minister and Labour MP Ben Bradshaw is to intervene in Parliament after a Pulse investigation revealed that outsourcing back-office services to a controversial public-private venture has resulted in a catalogue of administrative problems.

GPs in several parts of England have complained that subcontracting work to NHS Shared Business Services – run jointly by the Department of Health and private firm Steria – has led to delays in registering patients, errors in payments to practices, mistakes transferring patient records and inappropriate list cleansing.

Now Mr Bradshaw, MP for Exeter and health minister from 2007-9, has taken up the issue, securing a Parliamentary debate on the topic this week and requesting a meeting with health secretary Andrew Lansley.

Mr Bradshaw said he was intervening on behalf of GPs in Devon who are fighting plans to subcontract more services to NHS Shared Business Services across the South West.

‘The DH seems to be jumping the gun on this,’ he said. ‘The impression I get is that it is being pushed very hard from the centre. And there appear to be serious concerns about the quality of the service in parts of the country where it´s already in use.

‘I´m also very concerned about the speed at which this is being introduced. Local staff in Exeter feel there has been no proper consultation and there are too many outstanding questions not satisfactorily answered by the DH.’

Chris Locke, chief executive of Nottinghamshire LMC, said NHS Shared Business Services had ‘responded positively’ to his LMC’s complaints about the service and many of the initial problems.

‘We were pleasantly surprised about their openness. It appears they inherited major problems from PCTs which all had different ways of handling things.’

However, he welcomed Mr Bradshaw´s intervention: ‘There are serious outstanding questions on the relationship between the DH and NHS Shared Business Services and how they relate to the rules on competition and procurement. Figures on the potential savings of this venture were openly questioned and it remains to be seen whether it will save money.’

Health minister Simon Burns will attend the debate which will take place in front of MPs in Westminster Hall on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for NHS Shared Business Services said: ‘Mr Bradshaw has not contacted NHS Shared Business Services to discuss either the South West proposal or any other of our services.’

‘NHS SBS has consulted fully with PCTs across the SW region in a dialogue that started in June 2010. We have worked closely with the senior management teams of each of the NHS organisations, and a wide range of other key senior stakeholders in the region.’