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#GPnews: Health secretary says ‘no patient harm identified’ due to NHS data loss

16:45 Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has responded to the allegations he covered up the extent of a major NHS data loss last year.

Speaking this afternoon in the House of Commons, Mr Hunt laid out the reason for why he did not immediately inform MPs and the public about the misplacing of hundreds of thousands of pieces of patient information upon first learning about it last March.

He said: ‘I was advised by officials not to make the issue public last March until an assessment of the risk to patient safety had been completed and all relevant GP surgeries informed. I accepted this advice, for the very simple reason that GP surgeries would be inundated with enquiries from worried patients.’

He further updated MPs on the ongoing investigation into the impact of the breach.

He said: ‘All the documentation has now been sent to the relevant GP surgeries where it is possible to do so, following an initial clinical assessment into where any patient risk might lie. 200,000 pieces were temporary residence forms and 500,000 were assessed as low risk. A first triage identified a further 2,500 items that had potential risk of harm and needed further investigation but has found 2,000 having no patient harm.

‘The remainder are still being assessed but so far no patient harm has been identified.’

15:40 An interim deal has saved three GP practices in Plymouth from closure, but only for a year, reports the Plymouth Herald.

NHS England and Access Healthcare, the current provider behind the contract for the Ernesettle, Mount Gould and Trelawny practices, have signed an interim contract to keep them running.

This comes after a new contract with Pathfields Medical Group fell through, reports the paper.

An NHS England South West spokesperson said: ‘We’ll be working with patient groups at the three surgeries, so they’re fully involved as we look at the options for the longer term.’

13:45 GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey has commented on the NHS Business Services mistake (see below) which led to 500,000 pieces of patient communication going missing.

He said that the error would have meant some GPs were treating patients without all the relevant information that they needed, reports the BBC.

‘That might mean repeat prescriptions, which would be unnecessary, as they have been taken before. And it might mean delay in diagnosis. If that happened it’s at best an inconvenience to the patient, and at worst there’s a risk of patient harm.’

12:10 Medical accountants received a ‘mailbox full’ message when they try to submit online GP pension certificates to Capita on Friday, although the deadline for submission is tomorrow.

The Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants (AISMA), which flagged the issue, said it needed to be through by Tuesday to ensure certificates are processed by the end of the tax year on 5 April.

Andrew Pow, speaking on behalf of the Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants (AISMA), said: ‘AISMA members across England are reporting issues with Capita’s system.

‘At this stage the only solution is for the certificates to be submitted by courier or recorded delivery. It’s very frustrating and to have the system fail just before the submission deadline is unacceptable.’

AISMA said accountants have been unable to establish which certificates have been safely received through the online system and which have failed to arrive.

Estimates of pensionable pay for 2017/18 also have to be submitted via the same online system by the same deadline.

Mr Pow said: ‘If Capita doesn’t pick up these estimates then pension contributions for the next financial year will be calculated on the wrong basis. For many GPs this will mean contributions will be too low and there will be a massive adjustment to pay when balancing payments are due.

‘Equally, other GPs will be paying too much and practice cashflow could be affected.’

A couple of hours after having been approached by Pulse, a spokesperson for Capita said: ‘PCSE and NHS Digital have worked together and this issue has now been resolved.’

09:40 NHS England and the Department of Health have been accused of ‘covering up’ a loss of 500,000 pieces of patient data transferring from hospitals to GPs between 2011 and 2016, reports the Guardian.

It says NHS England has now ‘quietly’ launched an inquiry into how many patients have been affected, with 2,500 cases identified as needing further investigation.

A clinical review will look into patients who have died since the loss of documents was discovered in March last year to see if any of the delays in documents reaching a patient’s GP contributed to their death, says the article.

The lost correspondence – which Pulse wrote about last July – included bloods and urine test results, and results from biopsies and screening for diseases including cancer.

Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: ‘This looks, to me, like a cover-up. Jeremy Hunt has serious questions to answer, especially his deliberately evasive statement to parliament.

‘Jeremy Hunt often talks about an NHS more open about patient safety failings since the Mid Staffs scandal. His deeds don’t match his words.’

An NHS England spokeswoman said: ‘Some correspondence forwarded to SBS between 2011-2016 was not redirected or forwarded by them to GP surgeries or linked to the medical record when the sender sent correspondence to the wrong GP or the patient changed practice.

‘A team including clinical experts has reviewed that old correspondence and it has now all been delivered wherever possible to the correct practice. SBS have expressed regret for this situation.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘The department and NHS England have been completely transparent while work has been ongoing to resolve this issue, with patient safety as ever our first priority. In July, the health secretary informed parliament and in September, senior civil servants updated the public accounts committee.’

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