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03.08.16

Opticians raise ‘serious concerns’ about Capita service failings

Opticians are missing out on payments because of ‘shambolic’ services from a GP support contractor, according to the heads of four groups representing the profession.

In a letter to NHS chief executive Simon Stevens, they said the NHS is not doing enough to hold Capita, which was awarded the £1bn contract last year, accountable.

The letter is signed by David Hewlett, CEO of the Federation of (Ophthalmic and Dispensing) Opticians; Henrietta Alderman, CEO of the Association of Optometrists; Sir Anthony Garrett, CEO of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians; and Katrina Venerus, managing director of the Local Optical Committee Support Unit.

They said that ophthalmic contractors have suffered “a serious and significant financial impact and reduction in service levels” since responsibility for processing general ophthalmic services claims transferred to Capita’s Primary Care Support England (PCSE) service earlier this year.

The letter says: “The current operation is not robust and systematic failure is causing major financial governance and information governance risks for NHS England as well as a significant increased administrative burden and financial impact for ophthalmic contractors.”

It adds that the problems are occurring because Capita has “a fundamental lack” of both the staff and knowledge needed to deliver services.

They also claim that the PCSE regularly “play[s] down” ophthalmic professionals’ concerns, and that professional bodies are not confident that the NHS England Service Management Team “are doing all they should to hold Capita to account for these failings”.

The letter concludes: “As a matter of urgency we would therefore ask that NHS England acknowledges both the seriousness of this issue, and the impact that it is having on our sector.”

Venerus, managing director of the Local Optical Committee Support Unit, added: “We have worked closely with Capita and NHS England as part of the PCSE stakeholder group to try and help them resolve contractor issues cause by the service migration.

“But despite our efforts the service remains shambolic and a series of agreed recovery plans have failed to deliver. NHS England must now step in and ensure that the service is swiftly brought up to a satisfactory level.

“Contractors’ livelihoods are being put at risk and enough is enough.”

An NHS England spokesperson said that Capita swiftly needs to deal with these transition issues so that primary care is properly supported. “We will be holding Capita to account for doing exactly that,” they added.

The Capita contract comes at a time of pressure for general practice, with a recent British Medical Association survey finding that almost 300 GP surgeries described their finances as unsustainable.

NHS England has now released the first stage of funding to deliver the Five Year Forward View, intended to address problems with general practice.

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