Capita primary care service performance still 'unacceptable', NHS England admits

The private company providing primary care support services to GPs will be held accountable for its shortcomings, NHS England has promised following complaints from the BMA.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA GPs’ committee, wrote to NHS England last month saying the company had “substantial issues that are ongoing and causing significant problems for the GP population”.

He stated that payments provided by Capita were often missing large amounts of money and locum GPs receive no receipts for pension requests.

Furthermore, information updating and sharing was “inadequate”, with long delays in processing patient registrations and delivering patient records.

Dr Nagpaul also said customer support staff were failing to answer GPs’ questions and practices were not receiving adequate levels of supplies.

In her response, Karen Wheeler, national director of transformation and corporate operations at NHS England, apologised for the problems.

“Capita has delivered an unacceptable level of performance in a number of the PCS service lines which does not reflect the standard of service that we commissioned Capita to provide,” she said.

“It is a top priority for me to ensure Capita address their performance and resolve all the current issues as fast as possible. To that end, we have been challenging Capita over recent months with increasing levels of scrutiny across every one of the service lines.

"Progress in some areas has been made but we know that these improvements are not yet being consistently experienced.”

Wheeler said Capita has had an operational improvement plan in place since May. Improvements since then included bringing in additional management for payment and pensions, and a programme of staff development at the customer service centre.

Capita now expects to resolve the issues with patient registration by the end of September and the issues with the medical records service by the end of October.

A survey by the BMA of local medical committees also found a number of ongoing serious issues.

Dr Nagpaul argued that these mistakes were “directly impacting on the ability of many GPs to provide safe, effective care to their patients".

"They are in some cases being left without the essential information they need to know about a new patient and the tools to treat them," he continued.

“NHS England is ultimately responsible for the chaos caused by trying to cut the cost of this essential service for practices by privatising it and we can now all too clearly see the result, with practices picking up the workload and patients suffering as a result. 

"We need urgent action to correct these shortcomings before patient care is further compromised.”

Opticians’ professional bodies have also written to NHS England to express concern about the impact of Capita’s problems on their services.

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