Capita Business Services' shambolic £700m Primary Care Support contract with NHS England will at last be scrutinised by the National Audit Office amid “ongoing issues” with service delivery.
The seven-year arrangement kicked off in September 2015 - with an option to extend it for three more years. Capita committed to provide support services to 8,000 GPs across the country for £70m a year, allowing them to slash £30m from budget previously spent on NHS bodies for the same work.
The outsourced services included GP pay and pensions, management of medical record, patient registration and maintenance of its of new GPs. But only weeks ago, the British Medical Association reported continued problems some weeks ago:
“GPs and LMCs (Local Medical Committees) identified serious issues with the service from the outset, with patient safety, GP workload and GP finances being affected.”
The General Practitioner Committee has met with NHS England and Primary Care Support Services England (PCSE), the vehicle Capita incorporated to run the contract, to “highlight the ongoing issues, and some progress has been made following our lobbying.
“However, services still fall short of what is acceptable and there is still an urgent need to resolve these issues to give practices and GPs confidence in the service,” the BMA added.
Among the major complaints - which can be found in full here - are:
- Patient registrations - delays and fault processes in both registration and patient removals is affecting patient care and practice cash flow.
- Medical records - significant delays to the movement of medical record for various reasons including levels not being provided and patients’ records going missing delaying patient treatment in some areas.
- Performers list data (allowing members of the public to check the status of GPs, dentists or opticians in their area) and LMC Payments - LMCs are still not receiving data bout new entrants to the performers list in their areas… similarly, ongoing problems with LMC levy collections and payment is destabilising for LMCs.
- Pensions - significant issues with the processing of pension contributions
- GP Payments - some GP training practices have not yet received their training grants and trainees pay reimbursements, and are having to fund the shortfall from elsewhere.
The contract had been previously described as a “shambles” by Dr Richard Vautrey, vice chair of the British Medical Association's GP committee. He said Capita’s management had “resulted in chaos in back-office operations across general practice”.
“We need urgent immediate action to resolve the crisis,” he told The Graun in September 2016.
Now the NAO, an independent Parliamentary body, is getting involved with the Comptroller and Auditor General investigating the “management of the contract, performance under the contract and the subsequent recovery process”.
Specifically, officials will examine business objectives of the deal and the award of it to Capita; services performance to date and the “root causes and extent of any service failures"; as well as “action taken” by Capita’s PCSE and NHS England to improve services.
The NAO will report its finding to the House in the spring.
Capita last year admitted GPs had “not received” the quality of services they “should expect”.
Mark Berner, head of the PCSE, said: “We fully recognise and acknowledge that the transfer and transformation of PCSE services has unfortunately resulted in people having varied and often substandard experiences of the primary care support services that we provide of behalf of NHS England.”
El Reg asked Capita's press office for comment on the NAO probe, but this confused Helen, a senior account director. She then asked us to email our specific questions, and hung up.
Christmas can be hard, and working in the comms department for Capita must be a tough job. We must all think of those who are less fortunate. Cheer up guys, 2018 has got to be better.
Anyway, the press team then discovered its raison d'etre and sent us a statement.
“We are in the early stages of this complex NHS England contract, which involves a number of service partners, to standardise and modernise primary care administration and release savings which can be reinvested in frontline care. We welcome the NAO’s review and will use any learnings to continuously enhance the service.” ®