‘We have lost all confidence’: Number of women affected by Capita cancer screening scandal rises above 50,000

Even more women have been affected by Capita’s cervical screening programme scandal than previously thought.

NHS England has admitted that a further 3,591 women were caught up in the administrative blunder, bringing the total number to over 50,000.

Today’s news follows revelations in November that the outsourcing giant had failed to send more than 48,000 pieces of correspondence to women who had had cervical cancer screenings after a system error. Some of these letters even related to abnormal test results, but NHS England claims that there is no current evidence of any harm occurring as a result of the mistake.

However, responding to the latest news, RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard argued that people working throughout the NHS have “lost all confidence” in Capita and called on NHS England to reconsider its contract with the private firm.

“This is simply not good enough. Less than a month since we initially heard about this cervical screening error, we are now hearing it is more serious, and has affected thousands more women,” said Prof Stokes-Lampard.

“Cervical screening is a successful national programme that has potentially saved thousands of lives, yet take up especially among younger women, is falling. We should be doing our utmost to encourage more to have smear tests but errors, such as this, will only serve to further damage women's confidence in the programme.

“Capita has been shown time and time again to be unable to deliver on the work it has been contracted to do in the NHS. This is completely unacceptable.”

A day after it was revealed that thousands of letters had not been sent out, NHS England announced a major overhaul of its cancer screening programmes.

The ongoing review, led by Professor Sir Mike Richards, will look into possible changes to the currently outsourced contract, which could include the possibility of bringing the programme back in-house.

A spokesman for Capita apologised for the latest blunder, which came to light after an ongoing clinical investigation uncovered even more correspondence from last year that was not sent. The firm blamed human error for the system of “uploading, organising and checking” not being followed but said disciplinary action would be taken.

Yet BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey claimed this was not an isolated incident, instead calling it “the latest in a long line of failures since Capita took over a number of GP services in 2015.”

“And yet, NHS England have not demonstrated to the profession that they are serious at addressing what ultimately they are responsible for,” added Dr Vautrey. “We therefore repeat our demand that NHS England strip the company of its contract and return this service to an in-house delivered activity that can regain the confidence of practices and patients.”


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