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GPs on PCSE: ‘I started dedicating one session a week to ensuring my pension was up to date’

GPs on PCSE: ‘I started dedicating one session a week to ensuring my pension was up to date’

Earlier this year, Capita announced a three-year extension to its primary care support services contract with NHS England. Pulse’s recent investigation has analysed the performance of Capita’s service delivery arm Primary Care Support England (PCSE), how it has affected GPs and patient care, and the justification for the extension. As part of this we spoke to GPs about their experience with the organisation. These are their stories.

Dr Richard Johnson, who now works in Australia, has faced ongoing issues accessing a total rewards statement from PCSE. He recalls first getting ‘the sensation of sending money into a black hole’ back in the early days of the contract – when at the time there was no feedback even as to whether his cheques were being cashed – and says this feeling has been ongoing ever since. 

‘To try and communicate with anyone at PCSE on pensions is, and has been, completely dire. And as far as I can tell it hasn’t improved significantly over that period of time,’ he says.

Dr Johnson discovered in 2016 that PCSE was missing five years’ worth of his pension contributions, which were ‘not appearing anywhere’, leaving him ‘pretty worried’. He says the issue appeared to be that he had not filled out a form at the end of the year, but he was not informed of this.

‘I was then told I had to find all of my pensions payments and fill in forms for the last five years so they could update my record…somehow, I’d managed to keep all of this data, so I did that. But it took an extremely long time, and the help wasn’t really there. PCSE just didn’t have a clue.’

He adds that he was put in touch with the pensions escalation team at NHS England, which enabled him to start ‘bypassing PCSE’, who he found to be ‘extremely useless and far too slow’. A year and probably ‘100 hours of work’ later, he says he got to a point where his pension was up to date.

‘After all of that journey I had no confidence in the system whatsoever, so I started giving myself one session per week to dedicate to ensuring my pension was up to date. That was taking a session of my clinical time away to do pensions administration, which is a ridiculous state of affairs.

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‘What I found is that, despite working completely to the rules and having everything in on time and paid, there was a problem every single year, and there has been ever since.’

Dr Johnson says the ongoing problems tend to be in February when the type 1 and type 2 self-assessment forms are released. He completes his form on time, only to later find that his total rewards statement is blank and to be told by PCSE that ‘they haven’t had the correct forms’.

‘Their default response is “please send the forms” and these will be forms you’ve already sent. Do they just discard the forms and not store them? If that’s the case, then that’s a serious problem.’

He adds that the new portal has been somewhat useful as it has allowed him to pick up errors with his data earlier, but it won’t allow him to submit forms – and he is still having to do this manually. 

‘There have also been occasions in the last year where I’ve looked at my record on their system and there are completely alien figures for certain months – whose figures they’ve put in I don’t know.’

Dr Johnson adds: ‘I have no confidence in them whatsoever and it’s frustrating, because I think if they did things a little bit better then it would really help doctors at a point when there’s not enough time in the day to see patients. I have no idea how they were awarded the contract extension.’

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