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Thousands more women affected by Capita cervical screen blunder

Time to strip the company of its NHS contract, urge doctors’ leaders

Caroline White

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Nearly 3600 more women have missed out on correspondence about cervical cancer screening after an administrative error by Capita, the company responsible for various GP back office services, it has emerged.

These additional cases add to the almost 48,000 women already identified as having not received letters about the test this year.

NHS England has confirmed that no harm has come to the women affected. But the revelation has prompted GP leaders to urge the government to finally call time on the company and strip it of its NHS contract.

“Just weeks ago, it was revealed that almost 48,000 women had not received important correspondence relating to cervical screening this year due to Capita’s incompetence, and this latest revelation shows this was not an isolated failure,” fumed Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair.

“This is just 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,” he said.

“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.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said that NHS workers had lost confidence in the company.

"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,” she said.

"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” she added.

She emphasised that women shouldn’t panic but await further information as NHS England was working to contact women who had been affected as a matter of urgency.

But she insisted: "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- people working throughout the NHS have lost all confidence in Capita, and it really is time for NHS England to reconsider its contract with them."

An NHS England spokesperson said: “There is no current evidence of any harm having resulted from these issues and all women affected, and their GPs, are being written to today [11 December] advising them on what they need to do.

“These administrative failures were uncovered by a clinically-led panel, convened by NHS England, following a serious incident confirmed by Capita earlier this year. Primary Care Services England, run by Capita, has accepted its responsibility for these errors.”

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