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Wales rejects automatically registering English GPs due to Capita safety concerns

GPs registered in England will not be automatically added to the Welsh performers list due to concerns about Capita’s involvement in checking applications.

The Welsh Government wants to make it easier for GPs from other UK countries to be added to its list and is considering how to streamline the process.

But it has rejected a proposal for GPs in England to be automatically enrolled onto the Welsh register due to problems with Capita’s administration of the performer’s list in England – which it said could ‘compromise patient safety’.

Capita said they have ‘addressed many of the issues’ that led to criticism from the National Audit Office, which was cited by the Welsh Government.

GPs have expressed frustration at the Government’s decision, arguing that a ‘far greater risk to patient safety’ is the lack of GPs in Wales.

The issue has come to light as the Welsh Government forms its response to a consultation on changes to the register’s application process.

In a letter seen by Pulse, the Welsh Government responded to a number of suggestions about improving GP recruitment, including the proposal for GPs registered in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland to be listed on the performers list without having submitted an application.

The letter, from the Welsh Health and Social Services Group, highlighted Capita’s delay in both removing performers from the list and processing applications.

It said: ‘Since the consultation, a National Audit Office (NAO) report found that patients could potentially have been put at risk because of problems with Capita’s administration of the performers list in England.

‘Delays in processing new applications and making changes to existing performers, including whether GPs, dentists and optometrists practising in the NHS were suitably qualified and had passed other relevant checks, resulted in potential risks to patient safety, especially in cases where performers should have been removed from a list.

‘Allowing a performer registered in England to be listed automatically in Wales could therefore compromise patient safety. This reinforces the importance of undertaking our own checks and balances on those performers who wish to perform in Wales. We will not be pursuing this option.’

Last year, the NAO said NHS England’s decision to outsource primary care support services to Capita had ‘potentially compromised patient safety’, and told it to consider taking services back in house.

North Wales GP and former MP Dr James Davies, who previously sat on the Health and Social Care Select Committee, said: ‘I would suggest that a far greater risk to patient safety is the routine absence of GPs to see patients here in North Wales.’

He continued: ‘This typifies an incredibly frustrating approach since devolution, which places the ideology of autonomous policy in Cardiff Bay ahead of common sense and the best interests of patients.

A spokesperson for Capita, which provides administration for the NHS through the Primary Care Support England (PCSE) service, said: ‘The NAO stated that no harm has been identified as a result of our primary care support service delivery.

‘Primary Care Services England has addressed many of the issues that arose from the original letting of the contract and is now regularly meeting the vast majority of its service measures. In 2018, PCSE processed all applications to join the National Performers List within agreed safe timescales where the full and correct information was provided with the application.’

This comes after it was revealed in November that Capita failed to deliver over 47,000 cervical cancer screening letters to patients – an issue it knew about two months before informing NHS England.

That same month, BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey called Capita’s running of GP back office services an ‘unmitigated disaster’ at the English LMCs conference, adding that GPs have to ‘cope with failure after failure’ and NHS England needs to get its ‘act together’.