General practitioner England

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Loss of cervical screening contract 'only right'

GPs have welcomed a decision to strip cervical screening administrative services from Capita after serious errors were made.

They said other GP support services – run ‘shambolically’ by Capita – should now also be brought back in-house.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens told the Commons public accounts committee that the changes would start to be made in June, with a phased transition through the rest of the year.

He said ‘we have not been satisfied’ with Capita’s performance.

The BMA wrote to Mr Stevens last November to express its extreme concern after being made aware that up to 48,500 women had not received information regarding screenings after a system error.

The majority of the correspondence related to appointment invitations or reminder letters, but some were screening results.


Patient risk

Following Mr Stevens’s decision to withdraw the contract from Capita, BMA GPs committee executive team member Krishna Kasaraneni said: ‘We have long been raising concerns about Capita’s frankly shambolic running of GP support services.

‘Most notably we called for their contract to be stripped when it was revealed at the end of last year that thousands of patients had not received vital information about cervical screening, potentially putting them at risk.

‘It is only right that NHS England has followed through and removed this service from Capita, and now any transition process must be robust and not be done as a cost-cutting exercise at the expense of patient safety.’


Serious harm

Capita remains responsible for a range of support services in primary care, despite a highly critical National Audit Office report last year which said NHS England’s decision to enter into the contract was ‘high risk’, that an aggressive office closure programme by Capita had an effect on service delivery and that patients were put at risk of serious harm.

The BMA has been robustly raising concerns during the operation of the contract.

Dr Kasaraneni added: ‘We know there are still fundamental ongoing issues with Capita’s delivery of other backroom functions – including the transfer of patient records, pensions administration and payments to practices – and we demand that NHS England ultimately takes responsibility for all of these shortcomings, and brings these back in-house as well.’

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