Capita Condemned For 'Widespread Failures' In Delivering NHS Backup Services

Galtero Lara
May 17, 2018

Capita's failure to update the list of 37,000 qualified practitioners may have harmed patients "in cases where practitioners should have been removed" while 87 women were incorrectly told they were no longer part of the cervical screening programme.

"Failure to deliver key aspects of the end-to-end service, delivered by Capita and other organisations, impacted primary care services and, potentially, put patients at risk of serious harm", said the National Audit Office (NAO) report.

The NAO said NHS England secured savings of £60m in the first two years of the contract.

Fears over the outsourcing sector have intensified after a report by MPs on Wednesday accused Carillion's directors of putting their financial rewards ahead of all other concerns.

Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, said: "Trying to slash costs by more than a third at the same time as implementing a raft of modernisation measures was over-ambitious, disruptive for thousands of doctors, dentists, opticians and pharmacists and potentially put patients at risk of serious harm".

The contract was agreed in 2015 with the aim of reducing primary care support service costs by 35 per cent, with a view to modernising the service.

Capita proposed an overall reduction in staff numbers and expected to make a loss of £64m in the first two years of the contract, which it planned to recoup in later years.

The spokesperson said the report had noted that the company's performance had improved. The NAO report adds that "no actual harm has been identified".

Delays in processing new applications for the list of qualified practitioners resulted in about 1,000 Global Positioning System, dentists and opticians being unable to work, with 200 applicants so far seeking to recover loss of earnings from NHSE. In 2014, Capita racked up a backlog of assessments for personal independence payments, prompting the government to bring in civil servants.

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NAO head Amyas Morse said: "Neither NHS England nor Capita fully understood the complexity and variation of the services being outsourced".

"While NHS England has achieved financial savings and some services have now improved, value for money is about more than just cost reduction".

The NAO recommends that NHS England should determine whether all current services within the contract are best delivered through that contract or should be taken in-house by NHS England.

As revealed by Pulse at the time, the Capita takeover of primary care support functions left practices suffering "significant and unpredictable" disruption.

NHSE said the arrangement had saved £60 million over the last two years despite the difficulties.

'Although Capita's site closure programme required NHS England's engagement throughout the process, the contract did not require NHS England's agreement to close offices, and between May and November 2016, Capita closed a further 20 offices'.

"It has been acknowledged that performance has improved and Capita will continue to work with all parties to address the remaining service issues", they said.

"PSNC wrote to NHS England in July 2016 expressing its dismay at Capita's services and seeking remedial action; at that point we had many reports of services operating at well below acceptable standards, and this is echoed by the NAO report".

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