NHS England strips Capita of cervical screening contract

Author: Louise Prime

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The British Medical Association (BMA) said NHS England’s decision yesterday to strip Capita of its contract to provide cervical screening administration to the NHS “is only right”, after the company’s shambolic failures potentially put thousands of women at risk. The BMA has long campaigned for Capita to lose the contract, and is now demanding that NHS England also looks at other, ongoing problems with Capita’s delivery of some other NHS contracts.

The BMA wrote to Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, on 6th December expressing its extreme concern after being made aware that up to 48,500 women had not received information regarding cervical cancer screening after a system error. It said it appeared that most of the “lost” correspondence related to appointment invitations or reminder letters – but that some of it was screening results.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said at the time: “It is frankly appalling that patients may now be at risk because of this gross error on the part of Capita… Since it took responsibility for GP back-room functions three years ago, Capita’s running of these services has been nothing short of shambolic and after repeated warnings from the BMA and government, this is now clear evidence that its failings have put patient safety – and possibly lives – at risk. It is ultimately NHS England that bears overall responsibility and it must now take this service back in-house. As the body which commissioned Capita to take on this work, despite clear warning signs that it was not up to the job, NHS England must shoulder the blame for this dreadful situation; you cannot outsource responsibility.”

The Public Accounts Committee has since reported during its inquiry into adult health screening that between January and June 2018, 43,220 women did not receive letters inviting them for a cervical screening and a further 4,508 women were not sent results letters, of whom 182 needed follow-up treatment.

Sir Simon told the Committee yesterday afternoon that because NHS England has not been satisfied with how Capita has been performing, it has made the decision to strip it of that contract. He said: “Today, I am announcing that we are bringing the cervical screening service back in-house to the NHS from Capita, beginning in June, and then a phased transition through the rest of the year.”

BMA GP committee executive team member Dr Krishna Kasaraneni commented: “We have long been raising concerns about Capita’s frankly shambolic running of GP support services – and most notably called for their contract to be stripped when it was revealed at the end of last year that thousands of patients had not received vital information about cervical screening, potentially putting these them at risk.

“It is only right that NHS England has followed through and removed this service from Capita, and now any transition process must be robust and not be done as a cost-cutting exercise at the expense of patient safety.

“Furthermore, we know there are still fundamental ongoing issues with Capita’s delivery of other backroom functions – including the transfer of patient records, pensions administration and payments to practices – and we demand that NHS England ultimately takes responsibility for all of these shortcomings, and brings these back in-house as well.”


Editorial team, Wilmington Healthcare

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