Patient safety

17.05.18

Patients put ‘at risk of serious harm’ in ineffective £330m Capita deal

Patients could have been put at serious risk as a result of a “widespread failures” in an attempt to outsource primary care duties by NHS England, a new report has found.

The seven-year contract, worth £330m and awarded to health service provider Capita, was condemned by today’s National Audit Office (NAO) report as having the potential to put patients “at risk of serious harm.”

Issues included the incorrect notification to 87 women that they were no longer a part of the cervical cancer screening program, leading the report to claim that the outsourcing of back-office duties to Capita working on behalf of primary care specialists such as GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists were a long way below an acceptable standard.

The damning NAO report highlighted failures such as changes to primary care ordering systems being poorly implemented, meaning the 39,000 GPs under the contracted service were often left without prescription pads, needles, and syringes, and heavy delays to requests for patient records, of which 64% said they had received incorrect patient records in the last three months.

Other issues with the outsourced services included processing issues that led to an estimated 1,000 GPs, dentists and opticians being delayed from working with patients, with some of these practitioners losing earnings.

“A long way below an acceptable standard”

Capita was granted the contract in 2015 to run administrative functions for primary care providers with the aim to cut costs by a third and improve the efficiency of the services. Its functions included the transfer of patient records, ordering of practitioner equipment, and the sending out of patient test results.

But the review claimed that its “aggressive” office closures in a bid to cut costs had a detrimental impact on the quality of the service.  

Despite NHS England making £60m in savings, the report heavily criticised the organisation’s choice of targets for Capita: “NHS England’s assessment of the contract risk focused on the likelihood of it failing to achieve its financial savings target and did not adequately assess the risk of Capita failing to provide the service to a good standard.”

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said: “Neither NHS England nor Capita fully understood the complexity and variation of the services being outsourced. As a result, both parties misjudged the scale and nature of the risk in outsourcing these services. 

“While NHS England has achieved financial savings and some services have now improved, value for money is about more than just cost reduction. It is deeply unsatisfactory that, two and a half years into the contract, NHS England and Capita have not yet reached the level of partnership working required to make a contract like this work effectively.”

Image Credit: SARINYAPINNGAM

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