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Did NHS England consider us in the Capita takeover?

There seems to be no real consideration of the time, goodwill and frustration lost by the decision to award the primary care support services contract to Capita.

Quietly over the last eight weeks or so some really important support services for primary care have been taken over by the company, these include the (already very frustrating) performers list and NHS pensions.

This transfer was done quietly with no notification to anyone, but practice managers, and the disruption that has resulted has been well documented by Pulse.

But another problem is that sessional and salaried GPs were blissfully unaware of the change. That bliss has been short-lived however, as evidenced by the number of frustrated colleagues I have met over the past eight weeks (me included).

These short term gain decisions are just driving more of the workforce out of the workforce

Many locums have been sending their pension forms and cheques to the normal address, but after the handover to Capita this has changed. These forms are time sensitive, meaning that missing the deadline affects pension contributions and ultimately pension payouts. The phone lines have been cut off and the unwitting customer (I assume that’s what we are) gets directed to a central helpdesk; an oxymoron of the highest order.

Arguably more important is the timing of this change, which could not be worse in terms of the performers list. To do it so poorly in the weeks leading up to August which saw thousands of new ST3’s get their CCT and be ready to evolve into fully fledge GPs and hit the workplace.

Without being able to transfer their name from GP registrar to GP on the performers list they can’t work and so the struggling NHS is denied a whole new cohort of eager to work GPs.

Now none of this is Capita’s fault – per se – but when GPs have tried to rectify the issue it is proving so difficult to speak to anyone at the helpline or new local office that one needs a whole day kept free to dedicate to the cause.

This in itself is an unrealistic hurdle – what doctor, in any speciality, has hours to sit on the phone trying to achieve something fundamental to their practice? What doctor can afford not to work after three years of speciality training?

Why are there not enough people manning the phones, answering emails, dealing with the initial flush of queries and then delivering the ongoing service, or is bottom line king at any cost? 

Does NHS England factor the time lost to the NHS from doctors having to nip off and make long phone calls, being distracted and emotionally distressed when they approve these changes. Did they consider the impact of a GP registrar being unable to change their status on the performers list on an overstretched system crying out for new GPs? Do they ask the new service providers to demonstrate an acceptable notification system to all those affected – I don’t think calling the number you used to call and getting a message saying ’This phone is now unmanned, please call the helpdesk’ is acceptable… perhaps I’m being fussy?

It’s soul destroying really, and typical of the contempt with which doctors are treated by their employer. It is, in my opinion, no surprise that doctors are jumping ship left, right and centre to sunnier climes, retirement or a different industry. When will those in the driving seat realise that these short term gain decisions are just driving more of the workforce out of the workforce? 

Dr Renee Hoenderkamp is a first-year qualified GP in north London. You can follow her on Twitter @DrHoenderkamp

A Capita spokesperson said: ‘Regarding pensions, there have been clear and consistent communication about where to send documentation to. In addition, if any documentation is sent to a previously closed site, it is automatically redirected and put into the subsequent process. Pension pay-outs are not affected.’

‘Applications to the national performers list (NPL) that are complete and are supplied with all supporting documents are being processed within the required timeframes.

‘We are also proactively working with the deaneries to ensure that applications for trainee GPs applying to the NPL for the first time are submitted in good time. This allows us to arrange the necessary face-to-face checks for these individuals to complete this application process in a timely manner.

‘Capita purely administers the NPL application process with the decision to admit or decline an applicant to the national performers list remaining with NHS England. It is essential that together we ensure that the NPL process is robust and accurate.’