The government will require Capita to pay compensation for GPs, after “unacceptable” failings with its primary care support service became evident.
This problems has affected numerous GP surgeries.
Health minister Nicola Blackwood conceded that Capita had been “inadequately prepared” to assume responsibility for primary care support.
“I have made it clear to Capita that I expect it to consider compensation as an option,” Blackwood told MPs.
The BMA has long since warned that patients are being put at risk by inefficiencies and incompetencies at Capita.
Problems with transferring patient records, shortages of prescription pads, and problems processing newly qualified GPs’ applications to join the performers list have been among the difficulties evidence at the private contractor.
Former Labour minister Geoffrey Robinson MP (Coventry North West), who initiated the Commons debate that took place on Tuesday evening, suggests that services have been put at risk by the government, by virtue of placing Capita in charge of this system.
“The lure of apparent savings and the prospect of cutting 40% from a £1bn bill for primary care support services” had enticed the government, according to Robinson.
“And they contracted the work out to Capita, of all people. This reveals the true motives of private sector contractors. They are not in it to improve the service and make real savings; they are in it for short-term profit. ‘There is no doubt that we are facing a major threat with this situation, and we hope we can stop it before we get to a major incident or catastrophe of some kind,” Robinson continued.
Bristol South Labour MP Karin Smyth equally asserted that the privatisation of this service has been “driven by a desire to make massive wholesale savings”.
Blackwood has attempted to reassure MPs that there have been no direct cases of patient harm occurring from problems with Capita, but also conceded that the government had failed to satisfactorily scrutinise Capita’s competence in delivering the contract.
Instead a modernised, more efficient model of primary care support is to be favoured.
“I acknowledge fully that there is a long way to go before the service can be considered acceptable and that Capita has much to do to earn the trust of practitioners and patients. This is clearly a live issue. I want to be clear today: I am listening. The issue is at the top of my priority list and will remain there until I am satisfied that an efficient and effective service is being delivered that meets the needs of patients and providers,” Blackwood noted.
A Capita spokeswoman responded to criticisms of the company.
“NHS England contracted Capita to both streamline delivery of GP support services and make significant cost savings across what was a highly localised service with unstandardised, generally unmeasured and in some cases, uncompliant processes. We have taken on this challenging initiative and we have openly apologised for the varied level of service experienced by some service users as these services were transitioned and are being transformed.”
The spokeswoman went on to outline some of the successes of Capita, as the company sees it.
“Medical records are now being delivered securely up to three times faster than under the previous system,’ she said. ‘Urgent requests for medical records are a priority and if a paper-based medical record is unavailable, access to vital medical information is still available to GPs electronically without delay or we assist direct GP to GP contact to ensure patient care is not disrupted as has always been the case”.
Finally, she commented on some of the plans of Capita to improve the situation.
“We request and move on average 100,000 files a week from multiple sites including GP surgeries and also third party run storage facilities which are contracted and managed by NHS England. There are approximately 22m medical records that are stored in these NHS England managed sites. We therefore have some dependencies on these third party storage facilities, and are working closely with NHS England to improve the timeframes for medical records to be retrieved from them. We have mobilised extra people and management to ensure that we can deliver an improved service”.